20 March 2009

Say no to homophobic hate - don't let the Tories wreck Clause 58

LGBT LabourLGBT Labour is today calling on supporters to lobby their MPs ahead of next Monday’s crucial Commons vote on 'Clause 58' – a section of the Coroners and Justice Bill that will outlaw homophobic hate speech.

The legislation in Clause 58 promises to outlaw speech that calls for the rape and murder of lesbian and gays, and that encourages the bullying of vulnerable children in schools.

The last time these protections went before the House of Commons only five Conservative MPs voted to offer the LGB community equal protection under the law. The legislation then proceeded to the Lords where Tory peer Lord Waddington inserted an amendment allowing extremists who encourage the torture and murder of gay people to stand above the law by claiming religious motivation.

Recently Shadow Cabinet member Nick Herbert has proclaimed the Conservative Party's new found gay-friendly outlook, saying "respect for gay people is one of the hallmarks of David Cameron's Conservatives".

Yet on the 3rd March every Conservative on the Justice Bill Committee again voted to remove these protections.

What we are seeing is just another example of empty promises from David Cameron's Conservatives who offer nothing more than lip service to equality.

I would like to urge all LabourList readers to help ensure this legislation remains in the Coroners and Justice Bill. Please visit our campaign site and sign our petition.

There have been a number of alarmist suggestions regarding the proposed protections with many claiming there will be heavy-handed restrictions on free speech.

In reality, the new offence will tackle serious acts of hatred directed towards lesbian and gay people, including calls for the torture and murder of gay people, as well as violently homophobic publications and websites.

The law will not impede genuine freedom of speech or the telling of jokes by comedians, as some have suggested. The offence will not outlaw jokes involving gay people, or any jokes that a gay person might deem offensive.

Of course the Labour government should always stand for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But these freedoms must be exercised responsibly. There is a clear line between expressing a disapproval of a person’s sexuality and lyrics that call for rape, torture and murder.

We would not accept such behaviour on grounds of race or religion, and nor should we tolerate those who seek to persecute lesbian, gay or bisexual people.

Please visit the LGBT Labour Clause 58 website at lgbtlabour.org.uk/clause58.

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