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Should Fat People Be Protected Under Hate Crime Laws?

Hate crime laws protect people from being attacked or discriminated against based on a whole host of things, including age, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual identity. Should "being fat" be added to that ever growing list?

Some people in London seem to think so. They demonstrated outside the mayor's office on Sunday, demanding that laws be passed that protect overweight people from prejudice.

They are following the lead of San Francisco, where a law bans so called "fat-ism" in housing and employment. It also stops doctors from pressing patients to slim down.

San Francisco lawyer Sondra Solway told BBC News, "The San Francisco ordinance says you may want to mention weight to the patient but if the patient says they do not want to talk about that then you are asked to respect those wishes."

Back in London, members of the Size Acceptance Movement said they constantly face discrimination because of their waistlines. Kathryn Szrodecki said that in the UK fat people are stared at, pointed at, talked about and attacked. "I have been discriminated against - I am a YMCA qualified fitness instructor, but I have gone for jobs and been laughed off the premises."

Marsha Coupe said. "I have been punched, I have had beer thrown in my face, I have had people attack me on the train. They say 'Move out of the way fatty! Well person coming down the aisle!'"

Dr. Ian Campbell of the charity Weight Concern said even if a law were passed, he doubts it would have any immediate effect on the situation. "People who are very overweight do experience a lot of prejudice both in their social life and working life and do need some protection."

But there may not even be a need for such a law. A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said size was already protected by the legislation if it were caused by a disability: "Potentially human rights legislation would also cover people by protecting their right to work."


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