Uganda 'Kill the Gays' Bill Will Include Death Penalty Provision;
Obama, Grassley, Coburn, Feingold, Vatican Speak Out
An article appearing in The Guardian over the weekend reports that the death penalty and life imprisonment provisions in Uganda's "kill the gays" bill as it has come to be known, have not been dropped, as Bloomberg reported last week.
The Guardian spoke with the bill's main sponsor, David Bahati: "Bahati has just presented his anti-homosexuality bill 2009 to Uganda's parliament. The bill, which will be debated within a fortnight and is expected to become law by February, will allow homosexuality to be punishable by death...He denied reports that international pressure might result in parts of the bill being toned down. 'We are not going to yield to any international pressure – we cannot allow people to play with the future of our children and put aid into the game. We are not in the trade of values. We need mutual respect.'"
The White House finally took a public stand on the "kill the gays" bill, late on Friday afternoon and only after prodding from The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld.
Said the statement: "The president strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history."
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, under pressure from groups like One Iowa, which began a petition urging the legislator to speak out, finally spoke out in a statement to the Iowa Independent.
Said Grassley: "Based on what I’ve been able to learn about the legislation and from the stand point that I’m a born again Christian, I can tell you that I don’t agree with this un-Christian and unjust proposal, and I hope the Ugandan officials dismiss it."
GOP Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has spoken out as well: “Over the past two decades, political, religious, and community leaders in Uganda have united to promote a rare, winning strategy against HIV that addresses the unique and common risks of every segment of society. Sadly, some who oppose Uganda’s common sense ABC strategy are using an absurd proposal to execute gays to undermine this coalition and winning strategy. Officials in Uganda should come to their senses and take whatever steps are necessary to withdraw this proposal that will do nothing but harm a winning strategy that is saving lives.”
And Wisconsin Senator and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs Russ Feingold released a statement.
Said Feingold: "I share the outrage of many political, religious and civic leaders in Uganda and around the world about the “anti-homosexuality bill” before the Ugandan Parliament. If enacted, this inhumane bill would sanction new levels of violence against people in Uganda based solely on their gender or sexual orientation. Its passage would hurt the close working relationship between our two countries, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Over the last month, I have conveyed these concerns to the State Department and directly to President Museveni, and I urge Uganda’s leaders to reject this bill."
Finally, The Vatican released a curiously timed statement which did not mention Uganda directly but appears to address the situation there:
"As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth."