Religious organizations in Liberia have banded together to form an anti-gay marriage campaign, but is this just a front to push for a Uganda-style ‘Kill the Gays’ bill that is already in the legislature?
The group, calling itself the “Anti Gay Rights Campaign,” is made up of Christian and Muslim faith leaders. It has reportedly started a signature gathering exercise building on previous efforts to support legislation that would explicitly ban same-sex marriage in the country, something that currently is not touched upon in statute.
Rev. Brown used the campaign ceremony to urge Liberians to stand up for their faith and beliefs by rejecting subtle means by lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgender practitioners and supporters to promote and legalize same-sex practices in the country.
“Liberia is a religious country where 98% of the population is Christian and Muslim. They are the majority and that’s what democracy is about,” the chairman of the Board of the Pentecostal Fellowship Union of Liberia said.
Also speaking, Rev. Dr. Jasper Stephen Ndaborlor, President of the Pentecostal Fellowship Union of Liberia (PFUL) who is also pastor of the Monrovia Free Pentecostal Church in Sinkor, told residents in the community that the purpose of the campaign is to ensure that Liberia doesn’t legalize same-sex marriage because of the influence of the “international community”.
“We cannot fight the international community”, he averred, “but gay or lesbian right is not a human right.”
The campaign is led by Rev. Dr. Kortu K. Brown, a Pentecostal preacher and member of the executive committee of the Liberian Council of Churches, and is marshaled under the banner “No to man marrying man, and no to woman marrying woman.”
Liberia’s senate passed a constitutional amendment in July aiming to amend section 2.3 of the constitution, which bans marriage between people who are already wedded to others and between close family members, to include mention of persons of the same sex. Another piece of legislation currently in the hands of the House of Representatives would make homosexuality a first degree felony potentially punishable by death.
While the religious campaign, thus far at least, appears to have made little explicit mention of the second bill, allAfrica notes that church leaders intend to present a “position statement” to the House of Representatives and the President of Liberia that “commends the House… for passing a bill against legalizing sodomy in the country.”
Since there is no other bill that mentions homosexuality, it would appear this could only be the felony bill.
The group is aiming to collect at least 100,000 signatures, of which it says it has already collected around 10,000 through operations in 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has said she will oppose any further efforts to legislate for or against homosexuality in the country, however this was before religious groups began their campaign.
This concerted effort by religious groups would seem to mirror actions taken in Uganda where several high-profiled preachers and religious leaders not only condemned homosexuality but actively supported the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, or as it is more popularly known, the Kill the Gays bill. So are there any other parallels? Loosely, yes.
Over the past year anti-gay attacks have increased in Liberia and homosexuality has begun to receive the same grandiose demonizing treatment as in Uganda.
In April for instance, a vigilante group calling itself “Movement Against Gay’s in Liberia” is said to have distributed a list of people suspected of being gay, much in the same way a Uganda tabloid previously published a list of “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos.” The Liberian group’s followers had pledged to “get” those on the list “one by one.”
One key difference between Uganda and Liberia is the presence of the Nobel Prize winner Sirleaf, though her lack of willingness to advocate on behalf of gay rights has been marked. It may come down to her influence, however, to help fight off this considerable threat to human rights.
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