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Encouraging News from Uganda: Government Panel Rejects “Kill the Gays” Bill

Promising news coming out of Uganda regarding the odious “Kill the Gays” Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The New York Times is reporting that the Ugandan President’s special panel called to offer a recommendation on the bill has ruled that it should be withdrawn from Parliament.

The chairman of the special committee, Adolf Mwesige, a Ugandan lawmaker, said that the ruling reflects the fact that the panel found the provisions in the bill were unconstitutional or redundant.  They also found that other clauses regarding punishments for sexual assault should be placed in another bill dealing generally with sexual offenses and not focusing on homosexuality:

Ninety-nine percent of all the proposals in the Bahati bill have been done before.  If we proceeded, it would definitely provoke criticism, and rightly so.

This is very encouraging news.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been a continuing concern among international human rights groups and governments around the world.  As a reminder, the bill calls for gays to be executed, says “known Ugandan homosexuals” abroad should be extradited back to Uganda for “punishment”, and that people in Uganda must report anybody known to have committed a homosexual act within 24 hours.  In fact, many think that there are even larger legal loopholes in the bill that would allow Uganda to execute anyone ‘related’ to homosexuals:

The wording of the legislation allows Uganda to execute anyone found guilty of repeat offenses involving homosexuality “or related offenses” which include speaking out in defense of tolerance, or being a relative, pastor or doctor of a homosexual and refusing to report that person to the authorities for execution.

The Bill has also been criticized for its deep ties to American Evangelicalism.  Pastor Martin Ssempa and Ugandan lawmaker David Bahatia, two main creators and backers of the bill, have long connections with American Evangelical Rick Warren, as well as U.S. anti-gay activists Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer, who held a three-day conference against homosexuality in 2009 which is credited as helping form the basis for the “Kill the Gays” Bill.  Ssempa and Bahatia are also members of the the secretive political American religious group “The Family”, whose C Street House has been the focus of controversy after Mark Sanford and John Ensign’s extra-marital affairs.  Just recently, American Evangelical Lou Engle held a huge prayer rally in Kampala with Ssempa and Bahatia called “TheCall” in which he praised the country’s “courage” and “righteousness” in proposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and encouraged them to pass it.

Human Rights advocates in Uganda are encouraged by the panel’s ruling.  While not the end of the bill, many see it as a strong sign that the bill will be dropped and defeated.  The panel chairman, Mr. Mwesige, indicated that he expected the full Parliament to vote down the bill within weeks:

The influence of the cabinet is very important. If it makes a decision, it must be taken seriously.

Hopefully, the pressure from both inside Uganda and internationally will kill this bill for good and reject the heated anti-gay rhetoric exported from American Evangelicals that has led to extreme acts of violence against gays and lesbians in Uganda once and for all.

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