CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie
Uganda’s Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, has struck down the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Law, ruling that Parliament passed it illegally. House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, a proponent of the policy, ignored a quorum call before holding a vote last December with less than a third of lawmakers present.
As one of the judges explained, “The illegal act of the Speaker tainted the process and rendered it a nullity.” The Court did not weigh the merits of the bill, which criminalized homosexuality and advocacy for gay rights with life sentences in prison.
Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, celebrated by tweeting:
<;p>Breaking news , I am officially legal . The constitutional court in Uganda has declared anti homosexuality law 2014 null and void
— Dr. Frank Mugisha (@frankmugisha) August 1, 2014
The Anti-Homosexuality Law, at times known as the “Kill The Gays” bill because various versions contained the death penalty for homosexuality, had stalled in Uganda’s Parliament for many years before being illegally advanced in December. President Yoweri Museveni sign it into law after being convinced by Ugandan scientists that “whereas, some homosexuals may take up the behavior as an open choice, for others it may be due to indoctrination.” The government defended the law by claiming that it was designed to protect Uganda’s children.
Since the law’s passage, the country’s gay population experienced a huge uptick in hate-crime violence. It also contributed to the country’s health crisis, as many HIV advocacy organizations were targeted for being LGBT-friendly.
Uganda’s colonial-era sodomy law remains on the books, continuing to put the gay community at risk of criminal persecution. Additionally, nothing prevents the Parliament from reconsidering the Anti-Homosexuality Act and passing it with quorum.