Gay free speech amendment voted down

By staff

An amendment to the law banning incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation has been shot down by MPs.

In the second day of debate over the coroners and justice bill, MPs voted down an amendment guaranteeing a defence of free speech in the bill.

Government ministers argued the amendment – inserted at the last moment to last year’s Criminal Justice and Immigration Act – provided a loophole to the law, and that it had already set the bar high enough so that those who simply oppose homosexuality would be unaffected.

“They do not need to fear that they will be caught by the criminal law,” said justice minister Bridget Prentice.

The government defeated critics by 154 votes, but faced a sustained campaign against it by cross-party MPs led by David Taylor.

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: “”Messages get sent out from this place which get latched onto by pressure groups wishing to stop other people expressing legitimate views – even if those legitimate views are in fact nonsensical.

“We cannot have a working democracy without the underpinning of freedom of speech, which also requires the tolerance of the opinions of individuals who we may think are either bonkers or which we dislike.”