Protesting Uganda’s anti-LGBT bill

February 16, 2010

BOSTON--About 50 people rallied here on February 4 to oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill being proposed in Uganda--a proposed law that would sentence LGBT Ugandans to life in prison or execution--and call out the legislation's ties to the right-wing organization "The Family."

The protest was part of a larger effort among LGBT rights activists to expose The Family's efforts to bolster homophobic policies abroad. February 4 was the date of the annual National Prayer Breakfast, an event that is touted as a way for politicians to "connect" with its religious constituency.

Protests were held outside the infamous C Street House in D.C., where congressional members of The Family reside, and in at least 17 cities, "American Prayer Hours" were held to present a progressive, religious alternative.

At the Boston rally, protesters demanded that politicians break ties with The Family and that LGBT Ugandans be allowed political asylum in the U.S. Activists denounced the role of fundamentalists like Rick Warren and Scott Lively for supporting homophobic religious leaders in Uganda.

Kate Leslie of Join the Impact MA pointed out that the senators who are in The Family and have counseled Ugandan legislators on homophobic policies are the same politicians who continue to stand in the way of full equality for LGBT people in the U.S.

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest and author of the report Globalizing the Culture Wars, described the discrimination LGBT Africans face in countries like Nigeria and Uganda, both U.S. allies. He also placed blame for the homophobic atmosphere within the religious community in certain African countries on African bishops who receive funds from the American Religious Right.

Pam Chamberlain of the Political Research Associates argued that President Barack Obama's criticism of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill at the National Prayer wouldn't have happened without pressure by the LGBT community.

In contrast to the mainstream media's portrayal of Uganda as somehow more susceptible to backward ideas merely because of its "culture" or ties to the church, homophobia is acceptable anywhere as long as there are laws that deny rights to LGBT people. This is true in the U.S., where the Supreme Court only just invalidated anti-sodomy laws in 2003 and where a number of states still have laws against "homosexual conduct."

With the existence of the Defense of Marriage Act and "don't ask, don't tell," and without an Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the non-codified punishments of high unemployment rates, violence and high suicide rates for LGBT people are essentially state-sanctioned.

Activists need to counter a losing strategy of compromise with homophobia and transphobia by continuing to organize around the aim of full equality in all matters of the law. Action around a letter-writing campaign to the UN, initiated by high school student Ben Chasen-Sokol, and building for the upcoming Northeast Regional Equality Across America LGBT conference were put forward as next steps for those who want create a movement that can push back the influence of the likes of The Family.

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