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Byline: Simon Caldwell

A COALITION of MPs is hoping to halt a gay hate law which will stopChristians pronouncing their beliefs about marriage and family life.

Tory, Labour and LibDem MPs are demanding an amendment be introduced to theCriminal Justice and Immigration Bill to make sure religious leaders are notprosecuted for criticising homosexual lifestyles.

They are threatening to force a vote on an issue which has split Gordon Brown'sCabinet.

If successful, they would embarrass the Premier and Justice Minister JackStraw, who has attempted to drive through the provision despite opposition fromministers, led by Attorney General Baroness Scotland.

The amendment says nothing should prohibit or restrict 'discussion of,criticism of, or expression of antipathy towards conduct relating to aparticular sexual orientation, or urging persons of a particular sexualorientation to refrain from or modify conduct according to that orientation'.

It mirrors a similar clause in Labour's laws against incitement to religioushatred which was forced through only after a protracted battle in Parliament.

The proposed law against incitement to hatred of homosexuals would carry amaximum penalty of seven years in jail - a longer sentence than the five yearstypically handed down to a rapist.

It is considered so severe that it has drawn criticism from some homosexuals.

They include Christopher Biggins, actor and winner of last year's I'm aCelebrity - Get Me Out of Here, the former Tory MP and journalist MatthewParris and the human and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

In Parliament, the amendment has been signed by Conservatives Edward Leigh, BobSpink, Stephen Crabb, Philip Davies, Ann Widdecombe and Philip Hollobone andLibDems Alan Beith and Colin Breed.

Jim Dobbin, David Taylor and Geraldine Smith were among early signatories fromthe Labour benches and it is expected many more will join them before the Billreturns tomorrow to the Commons, where it is in its final stages. …