The Ugandan parliament on Friday finally approved a controversial bill that outlaws homosexuality, condemning members of the LGBT community to life in prison should they be caught engaging in homosexual activity.
Being gay was already illegal in Uganda, but the passage of the new law further penalizes the act, ratcheting up the repercussions meted out. The latest version of the bill, which has been called the “kill the gays” bill for a previous version’s use of the death penalty as a punishment for homosexual behavior, offers up life in prison as an alternative to execution. The bill also bans all advocacy on behalf of gay rights, provides incentives for citizens to turn in associates of theirs who are gay, and declares that performing a same-sex marriage carries a sentence of seven years.
Ugandan prime minister Amama Mbabazi opposed Friday’s vote, saying that there was no quorum in Parliament to allow the vote to count. Mbabazzi last year seemed to walk back his government’s support of the bill, while still condoning the ban on LGBT advocacy. That hesitation may have allowed the death penalty clause to be stricken, but was not enough to allow an amendment that would have reduced the maximum prison sentence from life to 14 years.
Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati, who introduced the bill, was ebullient following the law’s passage. “I am glad the Parliament has voted against evil,” Bahati told AFP on Friday. “Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of Parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”
Despite Bahati’s statements of independence, the bill has been from its beginning crafted with the help of evangelical Christian groups. Evangelical community leader Scott Lively is currently facing down a lawsuit filed on the behalf of the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda for his role in promoting the bill.
President Barack Obama, who called an earlier version of the bill “odious,” was encouraged earlier this year to address gay rights during his latest visit Africa. While the issue was raised during his time in Senegal, it received a less than heartening response.