In recent weeks, One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT organization, has been pressuring Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to denounce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently being considered by the Ugandan parliament. A major reason for the emphasis on Grassley is his relationship with the The Family, an international Christian organization that has pushed extreme right-wing policies in Africa (as reported by author Jeff Sharlet).
On Wednesday, Grassley finally responded to his constituents. However, he refused to condemn the legislation, saying he was too busy to be concerned about such matters:
“I’ve got a fulltime job reading bills in Congress without reading the bills in another 190 countries,” Grassley said. “Surely nobody in Iowa expects me to keep up on issues that are in the parliaments of other countries. Besides I don’t know anything about it.”
Grassley spokesperson Beth Levine also told the Iowa Independent that after inquiries from the press, their office “contacted the U.S. State Department to get more information” and was told “that the administration hasn’t made an official statement, but an assistant secretary has privately relayed concerns to the Ugandan president.”
The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a draconian attempt to severely punish gay men and women. The original draft of the bill said that anyone “convicted of gay sex is liable to life imprisonment.” In certain cases, a person could even face the death penalty. Those provisions will reportedly be taken out in an attempt to “attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties.” However, the legislation also proposes up to three years of imprisonment for anyone who “fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are.”
Grassley may consider himself a very very busy person, but other officials — who are just as busy as Grassley — have managed to learn what is happening in Uganda. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has called it “an absurd proposal to execute gays” and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has said it “needs to be stopped in its tracks immediately.” Ros-Lehtinen and Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), and Howard Berman (D-CA) have also written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concern over “one of the most extreme anti-equality measures ever proposed in any country.” France, Canada, Britain, and Sweden have also spoken out, and even Pastor Rick Warren, who originally faced intense criticism for refusing to condemn the bill, has now done so.