The UK’s Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has announced that the government will move to ban speech inciting homophobic hatred against gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

He said that the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill would be amended to include the provision, and he would also consider extending this to include hate speech against disabled and transgender people. People convicted under the proposed amendments could face up to seven years in jail.

“It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last 10 years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality. It is time for the law to recognise this,” he told MPs.

UK gay rights group Stonewall welcomed the Government’s decision: Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said that, ‘We’re delighted. We’ve worked tirelessly over the last six months seeking to persuade Ministers to match existing race incitement laws with identical protections for sexual orientation. A new offence will help deter extremists who stir up hatred against lesbian and gay people.”

While the proposals will not bar criticism of lesbians and gays, it will ban inciting hatred towards them. The amendments are expected to receive significant opposition in the House of Lords, especially from those who believe that it will block religious freedom.

Summerskill responds that, “These protections aren’t about preventing people expressing their religious views in a temperate way. However, we refuse to accept any longer that there’s no connection between extreme rap lyrics calling for gay people to be attacked, or fundamentalist claims that all gay people are paedophiles, with the epidemic of anti-gay violence disfiguring Britain’s streets.”

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