Updates on Uganda from a Washington Perspective

December 14, 2009–As the Council for Global Equality attempts to keep pressure on the United States government to do all it can to stop the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” from passing in Uganda, we are happy to report that momentum in Washington is building. Never before have U.S. foreign policy leaders been so directly engaged on a human rights issue impacting LGBT individuals abroad.

The White House came out on Friday, December 11, with a specific statement opposing the bill in Uganda. The statement was published in the Advocate and is available here. And in a major human rights speech today, Secretary Clinton also condemned the pending bill in Uganda, calling it a potential “instrument of oppression,” and noting that “[w]e have expressed our concerns directly, indirectly, and we will continue to do so. The bill has not gone through the Ugandan legislature, but it has a lot of public support by various groups, including religious leaders in Uganda. And we view it as a very serious potential violation of human rights.” Her statement is available here. In response to further questions, the Secretary emphasized that “over this past year, we have elevated into our human rights dialogues and our public statements a very clear message about protecting the rights of the LGBT community worldwide.” Calling this human rights effort “a new frontier in the minds of many people,” she noted that offering protection for the LGBT community “is at the top of our list because we see many instances where there is a very serious assault on the physical safety and an increasing effort to marginalize people. And we think it’s important for the United States to stand against that and to enlist others to join us in doing so.” The U.S. Embassy in Uganda and other senior officials in the State Department have also voiced opposition to the Uganda bill.

Senator Feingold, Chairman of the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  has been in direct contact with President Museveni of Uganda to voice his concerns. Senator Feingold’s office put out a public statement on Friday to highlight these efforts.  Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, followed today with a statement expressing the Chairman’s added concern. Similarly, on December 10, a Republican affiliated LGBT group, GoProud, put out a statement highlighting opposition to the bill from Republican leaders in Congress.  They are calling on President Obama to take a firm stand in opposition to the proposed law.

The Christian right has been opposing the bill as well, including a very personal video appeal from Rick Warren to Ugandan Christians asking them to oppose the bill as an un-Christian approach to homosexuality.  Although not naming Uganda directly, the Vatican also offered a statement last week calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality.  During a UN General Assembly panel, the Holy See offered these  remarks.

And this weekend, the Guardian newspaper in London ran a detailed article titled “Anti-gay bigots plunge Africa into a new era of hate crimes”.  Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality spoke with the Guardian. The article also has the author of the bill, David Bahati, standing up for the proposal and expressing disappointment at Rev. Warren’s having backed down.  Read the full article here.

To read more on the proposed bill, visit www.GlobalEquality.org.

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