Uganda’s parliament is currently considering an anti-homosexuality bill that would impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, require people to report every LGBT individual they know, and criminalize renting property to gay men and women.
The measure has been widely condemned around the world, from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to federal lawmakers of both parties in the United States. The Obama administration has issued statements condemning the legislation and was working privately with Ugandan officials, but the President himself has not yet commented. In December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referenced the Ugandan legislation, saying, “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide.” She has also personally spoken to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni about the bill.
Today at the National Prayer Breakfast, both Clinton and Obama condemned the Ugandan legislation:
— CLINTON: And I recently called President Museveni, whom I have known through the Prayer Breakfast, and expressed the strongest concerns about a law being considered in the parliament of Uganda.
— OBAMA: We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it’s here in the United States or as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.
Making these pronouncements today was significant because the Prayer Breakfast is sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, the controversial group also known as “The Family.” As author Jeff Sharlet has detailed, The Family has ties to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality legislation. The author of the bill is Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati, who organizes the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and has been embraced by the far right in the United States. Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on C-SPAN and government officials to turn their backs on today’s event.
Yesterday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced a resolution condemning Uganda’s anti-gay bill. “The proposed Ugandan bill not only threatens human rights, it also reverses so many of the gains that Uganda has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Berman. The bill has 38 co-sponsors, but only one — Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) — is a Republican.
A bipartisan Senate coalition — including Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Susan Collins (R-ME) — introduced a similar resolution. The senators call on the Ugandan parliament to “reject the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’” and “urges the governments of all countries to reject and repeal similar criminalization laws.”