Gay comic slams incitement law

A homosexual comedian, Christopher Biggins, has condemned the new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred as an attack on free speech.

The offence was passed by Parliament last year, with the inclusion of a free speech protection making clear that disagreement with homosexual practice would not be caught.

However, the Government is now attempting to remove the protection through a clause in its Coroners and Justice Bill.

The move prompted criticism from another comedian, Rowan Atkinson, last week.

Now Mr Biggins has also spoken out against the offence in an article for the Daily Mail.

Well-known for his performances as a pantomime dame, Mr Biggins’ concerns centre around the danger for comedians whose material mocks homosexual lifestyles.

“The politically correct censors will be our own British version of the East German Stasi,” he writes.

“Under this proposed new orthodoxy, almost any colourful display of theatrical high camp could be presented as stereotyping of gay life and would therefore fall foul of the law.”

However, Mr Biggins extends his criticism to cover wider free speech concerns: “The new law will even override the basic requirements of freedom of speech, one of the pillars of our democracy.”

He adds: “New laws so often have unintended consequences, especially when they are introduced not to combat a genuine crime but to establish the state’s view of orthodox thinking.

“If this legal change really came into practice, there is no doubt it would create a new climate of fear, stifling creativity and restricting the scope for humour.”

The House of Commons is due to debate the issue tomorrow, and an amendment to retain the free speech wording has been tabled.

However, the Government is likely to use its majority to push through its bid to remove the protection. The matter will then be passed to the House of Lords.

Mr Biggins writes: “It is bitterly ironic that, in the name of tolerance, the Government should be marching towards such a culture of intolerance.

“The politically correct bigots should not be allowed to have it both ways. They cannot say, on one hand, that gay lifestyles should be accepted as a perfectly normal part of life, and then, on the other, demand special treatment for gay people to shield them from everyday humour. We are more grown up than that.”

Related Resources