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Johann Hari: Gay-bashing should not be a hate crime

It's always strange and sad when you have to disagree with people who have purely good motives and purely good goals. Over the past week, I have smacked into disagreement twice with friends and allies in the fight for equality for gay people. Both times, the rows have boiled down to one core question: should the people who hate and detest us just because of a trivial and irreversible biological fact - homosexuality - be subject to extra criminal sanctions?

For years, the invaluable gay equality organisation Stonewall has been campaigning to have the laws banning incitement to racial and religious hatred extended to cover homophobia as well. Now they have succeeded: on Monday Justice Secretary Jack Straw told MPs that the Criminal Justice Bill will be amended to do just that. Soon, if you speak about gay people in language that is sufficiently extreme that it is deemed to be "a threat", you will go to prison - for up to seven years.

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