UK government backs J.K. Rowling in Scottish hate crime law challenge

LONDON – The British government said J.K. Rowling should not be arrested for her transgender views after the Harry Potter author challenged Scotland’s new hate crime law with social media posts asserting that a number of trans women were men.

Rowling, a prominent gender critical campaigner, made the comments on April 1, the day that the crime of “stirring up hatred” relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity came into effect.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said the Bill was about “protecting people from a rising tide of hatred”.

“Unless your behaviour is threatening or abusive and intends to stir up hatred, then you have nothing to worry about in terms of the new offences being created,” he said.

Women are not protected as a group, but the Scottish National Party-led government in Edinburgh is looking at separate reforms to target misogyny.

Scotland has been at the forefront of extending rights to the transgender community but a previous attempt to make it easier to change a legal gender was blocked by London over concerns it would impinge existing equality legislation.

The new hate crime law has also faced criticism over its impact on freedom of speech and concerns that it could be used to silence some views, including from those who advocate for women-only spaces.

Rowling tested the law by listing 10 trans women, including a convicted rapist, sex abusers and high profile activists, on X and saying they were men.

“Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal,” she said.

Law gives police ‘wrong priorities’, PM says

“I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

Scottish ministers have previously said misgendering people would not be an offence under the new law.

However, Minister for Victims and Community Safety Siobhan Brown told BBC radio on April 1 it would be a matter for police to decide.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Britain had a proud tradition of free speech and that the new law had given the police the wrong priorities.

“We should not be criminalising people saying common sense things about biological sex,” he told reporters. “Clearly that isn’t right.”

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