Five men on trial for handing out hateful anti-gay leaflets are making legal history, as their case marks the first time that distributing inflammatory materials against gays has been prosecuted as a hate crime in the UK.

Legislation was passed in Parliament in 2010 that amended the 1986 Public Order Act to include materials used to stir up hatred based on sexual orientation.

The defendants have an awfully interesting defense, according to the BBC.

Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hussain, 45, Umar Javed, 38, Razwan Javed, 27, and Kabir Ahmen, 28,  tell the court they don’t regret circulating the material, which advocated that homosexuals be given the death penalty. They just meant to “raise awareness” of the dangers of being gay—and they resent the British government for not appreciating their campaign.

The men, all Muslim, produced leaflets with titles like Turn or Burn and God Abhors You, bearing images of men hanging from nooses and lakes of fire.

They were distributed outside a mosque in Derby, England and put in people’s mailboxes in July 2010, when an gay Pride parade was scheduled for the town.

Prosecutor Bobbie Cheema told the jury:

These five defendants were part of a small group of men who distributed horrible, threatening literature, with quotations from religious sources and with pictures on them, which were designed to stir up hatred and hostility against homosexual people.”

You will have to assess quite how much Mr Ali wanted to carry out a lawful and legal protest and quite how much of what he wanted was a shield he could hide behind from the consequences of what he really hoped to achieve.”

While such actions are repugnant, should they be made illegal here in in the U.S or is it more important to protect and strengthen the First Amendment? Share your (non-inciting) view in the comments.

Photos: BBC, Russ Hamer

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