Uganda’s Constitutional Court Strikes Down Anti-Homosexuality Bill

So says Reuters…

Amnesty International has more.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court today ruled that the Act was “null and void” as not enough representatives were in the room for the vote when it was passed by Parliament in December 2013.

Section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, which remains in force, continues to criminalize “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”.

Spokeswoman for Parliament Helen Kawesa told me, “Parliament will wait to receive the judgment in  its entirety and pronounce itself on the way forward.”

In essence, this is a procedural win but it is a reversal nonetheless.

For all prior coverage on Uganda’s efforts to enact the draconian law, click the link.

Uganda's Government Fools No One with Statement Regarding Anti-Gay Law

Today, Uganda’s government issued a statement which seems designed to change the Anti-Homosexuality Law into something it isn’t.
Here is the statement:

Statement by Uganda Govt on Anti Homosexuality Act by The New Vision

In case anyone has any doubt about how false this statement is, go read the Anti-Homosexuality Law.
Today’s statement says:

…it’s (the Anti-Homosexuality Law) enactment has been misinterpreted as a piece of legislation intended to punish and discriminate against people of a “homosexual orientation”, especially by our development partners.
The Government of the Republic of Uganda reaffirms that no activities of individuals, groups, companies, or organizations will be affected by the Act. The intention of the Act is to stop promotion and exhibition of homosexual practices.

According to the law, touching between homosexuals could result in life in prison. Touching. The law makes the statement by the government absurd. If my friends in Kampala are reading, please understand that no one believes this statement. Note what the law says:

2. The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if—
(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;
(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

None of the statement rings true. Even if Uganda’s government means to honor some of these promises, the government’s credibility is lost with the aspects of the statement that are clearly false.

Sam Kutesa to Preside over UN General Assembly?

In other news…
Kutesa has been appointed as General Assembly president to begin June 11. The question mark in my title is because it is incredible to think that anyone from Uganda could stand for such a position at the UN and even more incredible that it is Kutesa.
Kutesa has long had a reputation for corruption and had to step down from leadership in Uganda’s majority political party due to a corruption investigation. He was also singled out for a travel ban to the U.S. over those same corruption charges.
The main focus of this petition to the UN is Kutesa’s role in defending the Ugandan government over the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
In my opinion, political appointments such as this should go to people who have a solid positive reputation for advancing human rights and standing against corruption in governance.

Who Will Replace Fred Phelps?

Hopefully, he won’t be replaced but there are those who come close.
By now, most people know that the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died earlier this month (March 19). Phelps was the personification of hatred toward gay people along with the church which was mostly his family members. I am sure others have speculated about who could replace Phelps so this might not break much new ground. However, I thought of this list while reading about Martin Ssempa’s march to celebrate the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.
Most people, me included, do not want to see a replacement for Phelps. It is tragic to be known for one’s hatred and such a stance is surely a misrepresentation of Christianity. But there are those who seem to want the position. I’ll start with the reason this post even came to mind.
Martin Ssempa: Today, Ssempa is leading a march in Uganda to celebrate the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill late last year.  A person who would celebrate a law that makes life in prison a possibility for simple affection between two consenting adults has to be on the short list for a Phelps replacement. Once known primarily for his work in Uganda against HIV/AIDS, now he is known world wide as one of the most vocal and absurd anti-gay crusaders. His pornography shows in Kampala and hateful rhetoric rival Phelps for showmanship and degradation. Ssempa seems to revel in his status as an anti-gay icon in Uganda and in the United States. In fact, he is on the list while bill sponsor David Bahati is not, because Ssempa has cultivated his image in the U.S.
Paul Cameron: Paul Cameron has been discredited widely but still finds his way to the media, recently telling a talk show host that he would be open to the death penalty for sexually active gays. In the past, he has suggested that the Nazis methods of handling gays might also have merit. Cameron has for years called for criminalization of homosexuality and has produced mountains of junk studies to attempt to vindicate his views.
Scott Lively: Many might place Lively at the top of the list because he is widely believed to be the force behind the Uganda bill and the tightening of laws in the Soviet bloc nations. He favors laws which limit free speech on homosexuality but doesn’t favor the death penalty as did Ssempa before the law was amended. He says he favors rehabilitation and has often cited NARTH as a favored organization. Where he rivals Phelps is with his historical fiction book, The Pink Swastika, which essentially lays blame for the Holocaust on homosexuality.
James David Manning: Like many people who yell fire in a crowded room, this New York City preacher posted provocative rhetoric and then said he didn’t mean anything hateful. Manning posted “Jesus would stone homos” on his church sign and then said later he is not a hater. We’ll have to see if he escalates his rhetoric once the attention dies down.
Christian Reconstructionists: Many adherents of Christian reconstructionism (like this supporter of Ron Paul)  think gays along with disobedient children and adulterers should be stoned.  I am not sure any one of these fellows is going to rise up to the status of Phelps but their belief in their view of Mosaic law could be a foundation for such a move.
Some might object to my omission of Bryan Fischer. Fischer gets a dishonorable mention because he parrots some of Lively’s and Cameron’s views but doesn’t seem to want to kill gays. Criminalize same-sex relationships yes, but not kill them.
I hope it is clear that the focus here is not disagreement over biblical interpretation or moral objection to same-sex behavior, but rather the obsessive effort to demonize an entire group of people. Certainly, Ssempa, Cameron, Lively and Manning have demonstrated the latter. We don’t yet know the full consequences of their work.
Update on Ssempa’s march: At least three dudes showed up.

State Department Briefing: Experts to Uganda?

Yesterday, the State Department covered several topics related to Uganda and the Anti-Homosexuality Act during the daily briefing. Here  some excerpts:

QUESTION: — about Uganda and your opinion of the high court legal challenge to the anti-homosexual act?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Well, just to reiterate, as we’ve said, the enactment of the homosexuality act was a step backward for Uganda. The law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It reflects poorly on the country’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
As we said a week or a couple of weeks ago, this is – has caused us to take a look at our relationship, and there’s no question it has impacted our relationship. Now that the anti-homosexuality act has been enacted, we’re continuing to look closely at the implications of the new law, and where appropriate, we have adjusted some activities and engagements while we are doing that.
So let me give you an example: We currently fund or we have been funding the salary top-off, so additional salary to pay for – to help pay 18 health officials, senior health officials. That expired last month. That is something where we are no longer providing that top-off payment. Obviously, these are not individuals who are implementing – the worker bees, for lack of a better phrase. These are individuals at the top who are speaking on behalf of and implementing the policy. So that’s one example.
We’re also looking at our assistance programs to evaluate the ability of our implementing partners to carry them out effectively in a nondiscriminatory manner, and the legal implications of the act on our programs on the ground. So all of those pieces are pieces we’re evaluating.
QUESTION: So is it your assessment, then, that that is the total of your reaction, or you are continuing to review your assistance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the way I would think about this is we’re taking a thoughtful, deliberate look at next steps in light in enactment of the law. So, some of those pieces are how to send the strongest message. Specifically, the topping off of the salaries of these health officials is one way.
But we’ve also been in touch, and have been for some time, with Ugandan LGBT activists since this legislation was actually first introduced in 2009. They’ve specifically asked that the United States not cut off aid to the Ugandan people. As I talked about a little bit last week, and as you know, Scott, a lot of the aid that we provide goes to ensure services for things like lifesaving health and medication for HIV/AIDS, to bring justice to those responsible for atrocities, like the LRA. So we want to make sure that actions we take don’t have a detrimental impact on the Ugandan people who need those health services, et cetera. So we’re all looking at all of that.

I didn’t realize that the U.S. government helped pay the salaries of Uganda’s health officials. At least one, Ruth Aceng, was the leading figure in the committee President Museveni convened prior to his decision to sign the anti-gay bill. Apparently, they will experience a pay cut.  The department does not want to harm people who get their medicine or other basic needs from our funding.
Consistent with reports from Secretary of State Kerry that experts might go to Uganda, the state department staffer promised to get more information of the specifics.

QUESTION: Last week, I know Secretary Kerry mentioned that the U.S. was sending experts to go —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and talk? Who are these experts and what were they – I mean, the law is enacted. Were there any —
MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding is it’s health – in the pool of health experts, but I can check and see if that’s happening or who might be in that group and if that’s moved forward.
QUESTION: From the way – from what he said, it was experts to do with the law, I mean, in trying to refine ways of doing law, or did I misunderstand it?
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see —
MS. PSAKI: — and if that’s actually be implemented or is moving forward.

You can read the rest here.