Lords approve free speech change to ‘gay hatred’ law
Lord Waddington has succeeded in amending the proposed ‘homophobic hatred’ offence to include a free speech protection. Shortly before midnight last night (Monday) Peers voted 81 to 57 in favour of his amendment. The Christian Institute supported Lord Waddington throughout his campaign.
The amendment says, “In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”
The amendment must be approved by MPs in the House of Commons. The Government may try to overturn the amendment there. However, the Government is keen to get the Bill passed quickly because a no-strike agreement with prison officers runs out on 8 May. The Government wants the Bill, which makes such strikes unlawful, to be in place before the agreement ends.
The free speech vote came at the end of a highly unusual day in the Lords. Earlier, with very little notice, the Government persuaded the Lords to extend Monday’s debate to midnight. This meant the timing of the free speech vote was brought forward from Wednesday.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “I believe this was a deliberate attempt to wrong foot those Peers who wanted to vote for the free speech clause. However, Peers clearly felt strongly enough about the issue to make sure they attended on Monday and stayed very late into the evening to support Lord Waddington. It is also clear that many Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers did not want to support their party’s line to oppose Lord Waddington’s amendment.
“We are delighted by this result. In recent years there have been a number of cases where overzealous police officers have unjustly interfered with the rights of Christians to express their religious beliefs on sexual ethics. That is why this amendment is so important. I hope the Government will not try to overturn this sensible safeguard in the Commons.”