Stop homophobic hatred: don’t let the Tories wreck Clause 58

First published on Progressonline in the Young progressives column

The third reading of the Justice and Coroners Bill is set for the Commons on Monday. Clause 58 will re-instate the incitement to homophobia legislation and remove the Lord Waddington amendment that give fanatics a legal protection to their bigotry

The bill will outlaw hate speech that calls for the raping and murder of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, it condemns rap lyrics that inspire violence and cuts off at the source those who encourage bullying of LGB children in our schools. The “incitement” context, like with race and religion, sets the bar very high. The legal threshold for a conviction has only been reached on the rarest of occasions. The public benefit must be strong and the attorney general must sign off on the CPS’ intervention. This will not mean jokes, or that bible quotes will be ruled out of order, but only the words of those who want to see hurt and destruction.

The last time this came to the Commons, Labour MPs did us proud and passed the right clause. But only five Tories voted with them.

Yet again the Tories are opposing social progress for LGB people. They cannot even bring themselves to condemn those who incite hatred against LGB people – those who call for violence, rape and the murder of lesbian and gay people. While the debate unfolds in the days to come, various reactionary forces will trot out lines on free speech. Parliament has decided on a number of occasions that pure free speech does not exist in this country. We say it is wrong to use hate speech to encourage action, violence and murder against racial groups. We say the same for those of faith but now when we have evidence of the same hate speech against LGB people the Tories cite their first amendment rights.

Shadow cabinet member Nick Herbert told gay magazine 3SIXTY that, “Respect for gay people is one of the hallmarks of David Cameron’s Conservatives.” Yet again the LGB community are left wanting. Cameron’s warm words amount to little more than his willingness to attend a friend’s Civil Partnership and the rump of the party proves it is stronger than any conference speech.

Thankfully parliament has a progressive majority. With Labour, LGBT rights are moving forward. For now they are building strength and making change. Under a Tory government we know there will at best be no progress, but as California’s Prop 8 proves, things could always change back.

For more information on the campaign, to write to our MP or to sign your support see here.

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Richard Angell is national chair of Young Labour and national secretary of LGBT Labour

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