The Home Secretary Jack Straw announced that part of the new Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill there will be a proposal to include an offence of inciting homophobic hatred. Obviously the definition of this and the intention of the proposal will be debated and analysed when the Bill is given its reading in Parliament. It is expected to have a rough ride in the Lords.
So, let's contrast two newspapers covering the story.
Brand X states:
Inciting homophobic hatred will become illegal, the justice secretary, Jack Straw, announced last night, following a campaign by gay rights groups. The introduction of an offence of rallying hatred against gays and lesbians follows similar measures to tackle religious hate crime, which were passed earlier this year after lengthy rows over freedom of speech.
"It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last 10 years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality. It is time for the law to recognise this," said Mr Straw, introducing the second reading of the criminal justice and immigration bill.
The offence is technically defined as inciting hatred on the grounds of sexuality, protecting bisexuals and heterosexuals too. Mr Straw said he would consider whether protection should be extended to transgendered and disabled people.
The proposal is likely to run into opposition in the Lords. Evangelical Christian groups have argued that Christians who criticised gay sex could be jailed for up to seven years and warned it would be used to censor the expression of religious beliefs. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: "The new law would not prohibit criticism of gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but it would protect them from incitement to hatred against them because of their sexual orientation."
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights campaign Stonewall, said: "We refuse to accept that there's no connection between rap lyrics calling on people to kill homosexuals, or BNP literature describing gay people as paedophiles, and the epidemic of anti-gay violence taking place on Britain's streets."
Brand Y adopts the following approach: (my emphasis)
Stirring up hatred against homosexuals is to become a serious crime punishable with a seven-year jail sentence under a law announced last night.
The legislation - similar to laws already in force outlawing persecution on religious or racial grounds - will make criminals of those who express their views in ways that could lead to the bullying or harassment of gays.
The maximum sentence is longer than the average of around five years handed to rapists.
(Jim Davidson axed from Hell's Kitchen after calling gay Brian a 'shirt-lifter')
Firemen demoted and fined for shining torch on gay foursome in the bushes
The announcement widened the rift between opposing supporters of freedom of speech and gay rights.
Christian groups condemned it as "a law to allow Christians to be locked up for what they believe".
But the gay pressure group Stonewall said those who disapprove of homosexuals would have nothing to fear from the law if they express their views in a manner that is "temperate" and "polite".
Justice Secretary Jack Straw told MPs the gay harassment law will be included as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill currently going before Parliament, though ministers have yet to decide the wording.
Mr Straw said: "It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last ten years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality.
"It is time for the law to recognise this."
He raised the prospect of extending the law to cover to "transgendered" people and the disabled.
The new law aims to catch those who do not explicitly call for attacks or discrimination against homosexuals, as this is covered by existing incitement laws.
Instead, police will be allowed to pursue those who create an "atmosphere or climate" in which hatred or bullying can be fostered. Officials said it would not prohibit criticism of gay, lesbian and bisexual people or joke-telling.
The final decision over who has "crossed the line" will rest with the police.
Criminal legislation on gay harassment follows the recent Sexual Orientation Regulations which make discrimination against gays an offence against civil law.
Last night a CofE spokesman said: "We will be scrutinising any legislation to ensure that it safeguards the safety and rights of minorities without jeopardising wider concerns for freedom of expression, including the expression of religious faith."
But Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill said: "We are crystal clear that this is not about constraining anyone from expressing their religious views in a temperate way.
"It is about preventing people from inciting hatred, whether through the lyrics of rap musicians or Muslim organisations which hand out leaflets saying that all homosexuals are paedophiles."
• Parents will be told if a paedophile posing a threat to their child moves into their home or street under amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill introduced last night.
But there is still no general right for parents to ask if there is a paedophile living in their neighbourhood, as demanded by "Sarah's Law" campaigners after the murder of Sarah Payne seven years ago.
No prizes for guessing that the first report was from today's Guardian and the second from the Daily Mail.
- The Mail has a hidden agenda on homosexuality. You only have to see how obsessed Richard Littlejohn is with the subject to see this. Such stories are guaranteed to have Middle England choke on its Earl Grey tea and scones.
- Note that the story is interrupted by the flagging up of 2 recent 'similar' stories - Jim Davidson being kicked out of a reality TV show and the fire brigade members that pursued some outdoor sex participants when on duty. This paints the picture (without explicitly saying so) that the offences will be trivial name calling or pranks.
- The DM handily mentions that those found guilty (of an offence that hasn't been created yet or finalised) could get a maximum 7 years in jail, which is less than the average for rape. This is totally dishonest in comparing two disparate offences and different statistical measures. The ideas are forming in the DM mind already - rapists get less than smutty jokemakers.
- The Mail's report itself quotes an official as saying, it would not prohibit criticism of gay, lesbian and bisexual people or joke-telling. This won't stop the ORTHs of the DM pleasure cruise. (=Only Read The Headline)
- Christian groups condemned it as "a law to allow Christians to be locked up for what they believe". There is no reference given for this quote. What groups? The General Synod, or some lunatic fringe?
Indeed the Church of England is reported as taking the view,
"We will be scrutinising any legislation to ensure that it safeguards the safety and rights of minorities without jeopardising wider concerns for freedom of expression, including the expression of religious faith."
This is a world away from the first unattributed quote. The Church has every right to look at the issue and will of course be represented in the House of Lords by the Lords Spiritual. It is interesting to consider what the average DM reader thinks freedom of speech is. It certainly doesn't extend to getting a comment on its paper unless you agree with the line of the article. Smacks of Big Brother and Orwellian dark forces methinks....more of which later.
6. But Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill said: "We are crystal clear that this is not about constraining anyone from expressing their religious views in a temperate way. "It is about preventing people from inciting hatred, whether through the lyrics of rap musicians or Muslim organisations which hand out leaflets saying that all homosexuals are paedophiles."
Of course, as we shall see from our collection of gobshites on the comment section, they did not or would not read this last bit. Then the DM adds more spice by referring to paedophilia and Sarah's Law to subliminally cement the two together with the issue of homosexuality. Despicable.
Here's the people.............it's frightening that they are allowed to vote.
- The Thought Police are to make it a crime to incite hatred against gay people. Will this terrible government stop trying to control our minds and our thoughts. - John, Tendring, England
I like to believe that John is just a figment of my imagination. Either that or he has too much time on his hands (yeh OK pots and kettles...)
- I see the thought police are back.- Alan Beresford, Bury
Repeat after me......you will use DM phrases, Nu-Labour, 1984, thought police, political correctness...etc
- How long before Jack Straw brings in the thought police? If you want to make something worse Jack, bring in a law regarding it - don't you ever learn?- Peter, Huddersfield
Peter probably repeats catchphrases to famous people and thinks he is the first one. Garlic bread!
- I cannot make a comment, in case I`m locked up No free speech in `England` any more.- Roger Challinor, Stafford
So this letter doesn't exist you imbecile?
- The Thought Police are now a reality.You could get a shorter jail sentence for committing murder on Planet NuLabour.- Lickyalips, Richmond, Surrey
Who is this prick? Hiding behind unfunny pseudonyms (pots and kettles vol 2)
- Whatever next! The thought police are working really hard. I wonder how many more stupid laws they can bring in. No wonder the prisons are overflowing.- Jaqueline Dite, Cardiff, Wales
- George Orwell was completely accurate. Coming soon, a telescreen spy in every household.- John Allison, Lancashire
John, nobody wants to see any part of your grotty life once you go through the door of your Lancashire home.
- But if you commit murder or child abuse you get less time. Why do the words 'getting priorities wrong' ring in my ears.- Denise Ball, Oldbury, West Midlands.
Denise is not quite all there is she? Bless!
- UK democracy finally died 2007.Rest in peace.- Colin, Essex
The sad fact is that he's probably been saying this since 1997 and will continue ad infinitum.
- You're having a laugh, nobody gets that for murder these days. Do me a favour, stop being so stupid.- John Harrow, Kenton, Harrow
If anyone knows Mr Harrow from Harrow(!) point at him and laugh. It is not yet an offence under the Nu-Labour thought police!
- It has been a long time since the days when people were imprisoned in this country for stating what God says in His word that sin is sin whatever that sin may be. If this provision comes into effect in law we WILL be seeing Christian ministers in particular being sent to jail for declaring what GOD says in His word that sexual relations between people of the same sex are wrong. By the way when we read the gospels we see that Jesus went out of his way to meet and help all kinds of people particularly those who were seen as " the sinners " of their day. Jesus reserved his harsh words for the religious leaders because of their hypocrisy.- David, UK
David's sermon seems to go up in smoke with his second point rather pisses on his first! Still, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
- This is what happens when people replace civility and kindness with "political correctness". It is completely nonsensical.- Louise, Surrey
Civility would be inciting hatred then Louise? Please think before you spit.
- It comes to something when people can be jailed for seven years if they upset certain sections of society and murders are often out in half that time. So much for overcrowded prisons. There are far more important problems in the current world. Why can't the powers that be sort out the mess they have placed us in?- Ted Wallis, France
Ted, I'll buy you a glass of Claret if you can give me an example of that. 3 and a half years for murder. Not counting Jeffrey Archer's novels. Oh and I think you mean murderers.
- Has anyone told the thought police at the Ministry of Truth, sorry I mean Justice, that '1984' was a novel, a work of fiction, not a manual for Government?!- Paul, Melbourne, Australia
I'm losing the will to live but I must press on and give these morons the oxygen of free publicity. I like to think of them googling their names in front of friends and seeing what a disturbed blogger thinks of them. Like writing on someone's leaving card - We all hated you really now sod off! I'm so nasty. No wonder I have no friends.
Finally, Stuart from up the motorway has a message for Richard Littlejohn,
- I've always thought that people who are virulently homophobic have something to hide.- Stuart, Manchester, England