The Government is planning to outlaw 'incitement to homophobic hatred', Jack Straw has announced. Free speech concerns have been raised by a broad range of religious groups, with the new offence carrying a possible 7 year jail sentence.
The new law would extend the existing racial hatred legislation to include sexual orientation. Significantly the Ministers say they want to use the current religious hatred law as a starting point. This law has substantial protections for free speech. It remains to be seen whether the 'incitement to homophobic hatred' offence will have protections which are just as strong.
The announcement came during the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill (8 October 2007) - an extract from the debate can be read here.
Gay rights activists have been calling for the Government to extend existing laws against racial hatred to cover inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.