The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit today, March 14, against an American anti-gay extremist over persecution of gay people in Uganda.
The suit is against Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBT advocacy groups in Uganda. The suit alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the formulation of anti-gay legislation and policies aimed at revoking fundamental right from LGBT persons, constitutes persecution. This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) allows for foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek civil remedies in American courts. Its use is before the Supreme court in a case involving Nigeria and Shell Oil.
Lively is best known for his role as featured speaker at an anti-gay conference held in Kampala in March 2009. During that conference, Lively touted his book, “The Pink Swastika,” in which he claimed that gays were responsible for founding the Nazi Party and running the gas chambers in the Holocaust. Lively then went on to blame the Rwandan genocide on gay men and he charged that gay people were flooding into Uganda from the West to recruit children into homosexuality via child sexual molestation.
During that same trip, Lively met with several members of Uganda’s Parliament. Only two weeks later, there were already rumors that Parliament was drafting a new law that “will be tough on homosexuals.”
The public panic stoked by the March conference led to follow-up meetings, a march on Parliament and a massive vigilante campaign waged on radio and the tabloid press. Lively would later boast that his March 2009 talk was a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”
Speaking via telephone from Uganda to Box Turtle Bulletin, SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha welcomed the filing. He said that when the March 2009 Kampala conference was announced, they had no idea how far that conference’s influence would go. Before 2009, he described an atmosphere where people were somewhat freer to live in groups as gay people, but after the conference there were demonstrations, meetings, reports of arrests, people being thrown out of their houses and churches, beatings, and severe curbs on freedom of assembly.
Just last month, Ugandan authorities raided a meeting by LGBT leaders at a hotel in Entebbe and tried to arrest Kasha Jacqueline Nabagese, founder of the lesbian rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda and the winner of highly prestigious international human rights awards.
Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights said:
[Lively] long ago set out a very specific and detailed methodology for stripping away the most basic human rights protections, to silence and ultimately disappear LGBT people.
This is not just based on his speech. It’s based on his conduct. Belief is one thing, but actively trying to harm and deprive other people of their rights is the definition of persecution.
Evidence submitted by CCR tracks Lively’s efforts back to 2002. He has also been active in Russia, Moldova and Latvia.
Uganda’s so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ bill remains under consideration in the parliament and still includes the death penalty despite repeated claims that those clauses have been excised.