PHOTOS: Ugandans Defy Government Intolerance To Hold Gay Pride Rally

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"PHOTOS: Ugandans Defy Government Intolerance To Hold Gay Pride Rally"

A Ugandan man is seen during the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda,

A Ugandan man is seen during the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda,

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

For the third year in a row, supports and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community gathered on Saturday in the former capital of Uganda. This year, though, their rally comes as both a time of relief and trepidation, as their government attempts to replace the anti-gay law struck down in the country’s high court earlier this month.

A beach parade, party, and film festival marked the the first gathering of campaigners, activists, supporters, and members of the gay community in 2012, though the festivities were marred when Ugandan police raided the event. In the two years since, the climate for LGBT advocates seeking to gather has improved — slightly. Sandra Ntebi, an organizer of the rally held on Saturday, said that the police had granted permission for the invitation-only event known as “Uganda Pride.”

Uganda Gay Pride Photo Gallery

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

A transgender Ugandan poses in front of a rainbow flag during the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda

A transgender Ugandan poses in front of a rainbow flag during the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

Somewhere between fifty and two hundred campaigners came together on the beach behind the city’s botanical gardens, celebrating both the temporary death of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” and the lives that the Ugandan government would prefer they hide away. Two weeks ago, the Ugandan Constitutional Court, the country’s highest, determined that the law had been passed illegally, striking it and all of its provisions down. Under the law’s terms, homosexuality itself was punishable by life in jail. Merely advocating for the rights of the LGBT community was also banned, and the law gave incentives for citizens to turn in associates of theirs who are gay and ruled that performing a same-sex marriage would carry a sentence of seven years.

A Ugandan man wearing a pirate's hat marches

A gay rights activist wearing a pirate’s hat marches

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

Uganda Gay Pride Photo Gallery

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

Though the law itself — which was based on a bill that would have originally provided the death sentence for Uganda’s gays and lesbians — was struck down, homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda. And rather than ruling against the law on its merits, the Court found that the Ugandan parliament had passed the law inappropriately, as one-third of the lawmaking body’s members were not present when the vote was held. The country’s attorney-general is appealing the decision and the parliament is set on reintroducing the bill to pass again.

That didn’t stop supporters from turning out to Entebbe. “It’s hard but I’m here because I’m celebrating being a gay, I’m proud of it,” Patrick Leuben, one of only two openly gay ministers in Uganda told The Daily Beast.“We’ve started a mission to help others hurting because Jesus didn’t hurt people.”

“We are a group of people who have suffered enough,” said Ugandan lesbian activist Jacqueline Kasha. “We are Ugandans who have the right to gather in a public place … and we are going to have fun.”

Uganda Gay Pride Photo Gallery

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

Uganda Gay Pride Photo Gallery

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

“People are still conservative here, so we’re trying to do everything the Ugandan way,” Frank Mugisha, a prominent human rights lawyer in Uganda, said. “We have not reached the stage where we will go onto the streets, but that time will come.” The revocation of the law sparked a hope among the gatherers, even drawing out those who wouldn’t consider openly declaring their sexuality. “Since I discovered I was gay I feared coming out, but now I have the courage after the law was thrown out,” attender Alex Musoke told the Guardian.

While the Ugandan LGBT community has resisted attempts to bury it, Uganda has stoically faced down international condemnation over the anti-gay law. President Barack Obama directly warned Ugandan president Yoweri Musevini not to sign the bill or face stripped funding and support for various government projects — he signed it anyway. As a consequence, in June the U.S. placed sanctions on Ugandan officials it deemed as violating human rights, barring them from entering America’s borders. However, though Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni attended a high-level summit of African leaders in Washington last week, there are no reports that he was pressured over the anti-LGBT stance his country has taken.

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