Obama ‘disappointed’ with Uganda’s anti-gay law

Barack Obama (Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wiki Commons)

Barack Obama (Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wiki Commons)

U.S. President Barack Obama said today that he is “deeply disappointed” with the decision by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to sign the harsh Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The new law “will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda,” Obama said.

He did not threaten any reprisals against Uganda, though some have urged him to do so. “It’s complicated” isn’t an adequate response, one activist remarked.

Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, announced on Twitter that she “spoke at length with President Museveni last night to urge him not to sign anti-LGBT bill.”

Rice said the law “will put many at risk and stain Uganda’s reputation.” She said she told Museveni it is a “huge step backward for Uganda and the world.”

Fears in Uganda

LGBT people in Uganda fear the worst once the law takes effect.

“We are scared and on edge,” one Ugandan commented on the Facebook page of the LGBT rights group Spectrum Uganda. “Let’s be patient, although I see a future full of blackmail and torture, broken families and homes, unexplained deaths and mob justice. I’m going to do some work in my closet … and leave room for myself in there. Tough days ahead.”

An upsurge of arrests of alleged homosexuals accompanied the passage of the bill, and some Ugandan politicians are seeking a constitutional change that would deny bail to people accused of violating the country’s anti-sodomy law.

AIDS workers fear that the disease will flourish in Uganda, even more than its recent rebound there, because many LGBT people are again afraid to go to health clinics, because sexual minorities are treated as criminals.

LGBT rights groups in Uganda are preparing to challenge the Anti-Homosexuality Law as unconstitutional.

But some activists are wondering whether they need to flee the country for their safety.

Advocacy blogger Melanie Nathan responded,

“As an LGBT activist community we are going to go all out to hound anyone who does business with Uganda again. Mark my words! This will include stopping tourism in its tracks! Ugandans have said they prefer their sovereignty to peaceful international relations, and as Museveni has told his NRM Party that he is ready to go to war with world gays over this, he is then indicating he is ready for war with our President who supports us. They will then pay the price.

“Now let us hope that President Obama will open our doors to Ugandan refugees.”

Obama made no such promise, but he did praise endangered LGBT activists in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia. “I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons,” he said.

What’s in the law?

Although the official language of the bill has not been released, an unofficial version, based on reports from members of parliament, indicates that it provides for:

  • Life imprisonment for same-sex intimacy — the same punishment currently provided  under existing Ugandan law.
  • Life imprisonment for same-sex marriage. (The Ugandan constitution already prohibits same-sex marriage.)
  • Up to seven years in prison for conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony.
  • A fine and/or imprisonment for five to seven years for “promoting homosexuality” and for anyone who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”
  • Imprisonment for seven years for the “director or proprietor or promoter” of a  company or association that is convicted of “promoting homosexuality.” In addition, the organization’s certificate of registration would be canceled.

Presidential statement

This is the text of Obama’s statement:

Office of the Press Secretary

February 16, 2014

Statement by the President on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda. At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.

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10 thoughts on “Obama ‘disappointed’ with Uganda’s anti-gay law

  1. I’m helping an LGBTQI service center-CAMEF- in Cameroon re-open after being closed last Christmas by hate filled vandals who also left death threats. I’m proud to say that the US Embassy is on the list of trusted allies in CAMEF’s books because they have come to their aid. Cameroon has had homosexuality criminalized for some 40 years and it jails more people than any country in the world. “Erasing 76 Crimes” has done an amazing job chronicling this history. Please consider helping CAMEF (website).


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