- George Orwell - 1984
Monday, October 8, 2007
New Law Means Anti-Gay Comments Could Lead to Seven Years in Jail
England has gone crazy! Political correctness run amok.
Stirring up hatred against homosexuals is to become a serious crime punishable with a seven-year jail sentence under a law announced last night.
The legislation - similar to laws already in force outlawing persecution on religious or racial grounds - will make criminals of those who express their views in ways that could lead to the bullying or harassment of gays.
The maximum sentence is longer than the average of around five years handed to rapists.
The announcement widened the rift between opposing supporters of freedom of speech and gay rights.
Christian groups condemned it as "a law to allow Christiansto be locked up for what they believe".
But the gay pressure group Stonewall said those who disapprove of homosexuals would have nothing to fear from the law if they express their views in a manner that is "temperate" and "polite".
Justice Secretary Jack Straw told MPs the gay harassment law will be included as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill currently going before Parliament, though ministers have yet to decide the wording.
Mr Straw said: "It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last ten 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 raised the prospect of extending the law to cover to "transgendered" people and the disabled.
The new law aims to catch those who do not explicitly call for attacks or discrimination against homosexuals, as this is covered by existing incitement laws.
Instead, police will be allowed to pursue those who create an "atmosphere or climate" in which hatred or bullying can be fostered. Officials said it would not prohibit criticism of gay, lesbian and bisexual people or joke-telling.
The final decision over who has "crossed the line" will rest with the police.
Criminal legislation on gay harassment follows the recent Sexual Orientation Regulations which make discrimination against gays an offence against civil law.
Last night a CofE spokesman said: "We will be scrutinising any legislation to ensure that it safeguards the safety and rights of minorities without jeopardising wider concerns for freedom of expression, including the expression of religious faith."
But Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill said: "We are crystal clear that this is not about constraining anyone from expressing their religious views in a temperate way.
"It is about preventing people from inciting hatred, whether through the lyrics of rap musicians or Muslim organisations which hand out leaflets saying that all homosexuals are paedophiles."
• Parents will be told if a paedophile posing a threat to their child moves into their home or street under amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill introduced last night.
But there is still no general right for parents to ask if there is a paedophile living in their neighbourhood, as demanded by "Sarah's Law" campaigners after the murder of Sarah Payne seven years ago.