A petition has been launched calling for the Government to extend changes to the Human Rights Act to include targeted hate speech and incitement of violence against the queer community, women and disabled people.
This comes after Justice Minister Kiri Allen announced on Saturday that the existing law would be amended to cover people’s religious beliefs.
Allen said under the Human Rights Act 1993 it is already illegal to publish or distribute threatening, abusive, or insulting words likely to “excite hostility against” or “bring into contempt” any group on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.
“Those grounds will now be extended, in both the civil (section 61) and criminal (section 131) provisions, to cover religious belief.”
The petition, created by a group led by Conversion Therapy Action Group co-founder Shaneel Lal, noted there had been numerous attacks on the queer community this year, including an arson attack on the Rainbow Youth drop-in centre in Tauranga.
“Gloria of Greymouth, a pink queer church, was vandalised with anti-queer and religious symbols. The owner of Woof!, a queer bar in Dunedin, received two anonymous death threats through the bar’s social media account.”
It said just hours after Labour announced hate speech law change, which did not include the queer community, a 22-year-old gunman entered a queer nightclub in Colorado and opened fire, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others.
“Are we waiting for a mass shooting inspired by homophobia and transphobia to transpire at a New Zealand queer bar before we protect queer people from hate speech that incites violence? How many lives will it take before the Government protects us?”
Lal told the Herald they believe Labour knows the queer community needs protection from hate speech that incites violence.
They said if Labour fails to prohibit hate speech that incites violence against queer people, people will be “emboldened to act on their hatred”.
In Saturday’s announcement, Allen also revealed the Government had asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of legal responses to hate-motivated offending, and of speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt for, people who share a common characteristic.
“This will include whether further protections should be afforded to specific groups, including the Rainbow and disabled communities,” she said.
Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman said her call to have the groups protected pursuant to the Human Rights Act began in 2018, and was renewed in 2019.
“Our strong Green position remains that we know what’s on the rise are things like white nationalism, violent misogyny, these are the stats.
“Groups like the disabled, women and the rainbow community are absolutely the groups being targeted by what modern terror looks like, so leaving them out is unconscionable.”