At Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast, both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a proposed law that would, among other penalties, prescribe the death penalty for the crime of “aggravated homosexuality.” Here’s what they had to say:
Not only were the words important, but the setting in which President Obama made this statement had added value and impact. The National Prayer Breakfast, which is hosted by the fundamentalist group known as The Fellowship or The Family, was attended by some of the very Christian evangelicals that are thought to have been the driving force behind the so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda.
There was immediate fallout following the President’s condemnation of the bill.
“Somebody should tell President Obama that the parliament is doing its legislative duty in the interest of the people of Uganda,” said James Nsaba Buturo, Ugandan minister of Ethics and Integrity, in a statement to the AFP. “Members of parliament have a constitutional duty to choose between what the people of Uganda want and what others want, and I am sure they will choose what the people of Uganda want,” he said. You can read more here.
However, PinkNews is reporting that Uganda’s deputy foreign minister Henry Okello Oryem has taken the opportunity to reinforce that, although the Ugandan parliament does not yet have the ability to change the proposed legislation due to the fact that it is a private members bill, he is “sure [the bill] will take a different form when it is tabled on the floor in parliament.”
He also says that homosexuality is not a chief concern for the majority of the parliament and echoes what President Yoweri Museveni said earlier in the year when he made it clear that he did not support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its current form.
Even though it is widely believed that the death penalty clause of the bill will now be struck down, the proposed legislation remains dangerous, pervasive and punitive. It is rumored that, instead of the death penalty, legislators are considering a requirement of forced reparative therapy to try and “cure” homosexuals who are prosecuted under the new legislation. This discredited and dangerous practice must also be opposed. And it is being.
Following the National Prayer Breakfast, Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill in all its forms. The resolution is co-sponsored by 38 members of the House including its lesbian and gay members, Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jared Polis (D-CO).
From the press release:
“The proposed Ugandan bill not only threatens human rights, it also reverses so many of the gains that Uganda has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This issue has united leaders of different political and religious views in Uganda and worldwide in one common belief in the rights of all human beings regardless of sexual orientation.”
The resolution also “urges all countries around the world to reject and repeal similar laws that criminalize homosexuality, and encourages the United States Department of State to closely monitor human rights abuses that occur because of sexual orientation.”
You can read the text of the resolution here (.pdf).
The Senate version of the resolution, introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and co-sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-MA), also calls on members of the Ugandan parliament to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and points out that the bill could potentially devastate the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
In related news, on Tuesday, LGBT rights advocates among other progressives and religious leaders held a press conference for their alternative to the National Prayer Breakfast called the American Prayer Hour.
At the press conference, Harry Nox, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, spoke against “The Family” and their influence in fostering anti-gay feeling in other countries, while openly gay episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson, gave a powerful speech on his deep sorrow over the interference of religious conservatives in Uganda’s culture.
Also in attendance was a gay Ugandan man known as Moses who is currently seeking asylum in the US. Due to the fact that Moses fears the repercussions of his true identity being known (for both himself and his family who, he fears, may also be targeted), he chose to speak at the conference with a paper bag over his head so as to disguise his face.
While this may initially seem humorous, listening to Moses speak about how, after he was raped by a Ugandan policeman, he had no one to turn to because of the stigma attached to homosexuality, and how, in the past, Ugandan newspapers have published the names of homosexuals so as to publicly shame them, which has led to further acts of violence and intimidation against Uganda’s gay community, truly drives home the dire need to oppose this new Anti-Homosexuality Bill and to oppose all such laws that criminalize homosexuality:
For more videos from the press conference, please click here.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to be taken up by the Ugandan parliament when they reconvene in the next few weeks.
To find out exactly what the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would do, please click here.
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