A bill being proposed by Uganda's government would impose a life sentence on the east African nation's gay and lesbian citizens and in some cases make death the punishment for homosexual activity. Fortunately, the plight of Uganda's LGBT community is not being ignored by Minnesota's elected officials.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 has roots in American evangelical traditions. In fact, "The Family," a secretive group of evangelical members of Congress and other political leaders, had a hand in converting Uganda's president to evangelical Christianity. And a group of "ex-gay" evanglicals gave a presentation to Ugandan leaders that including unsupported assertions such as gays target children for recruitment, gays are evil, and gays commit rape in higher numbers than heterosexuals.
It was in this toxic environment of evangelism that Ugandan leaders crafted a bill that makes being gay or lesbian a crime punishable by life in prison -- and if they are HIV-positive, a crime punishable by death.
Fortuntely, Minnesota's political leaders -- exclusively Democrats -- have spoken out against Uganda's pending legislation. Sen. Al Franken is one of the orginal nine sponsors of a bill in the U.S. Senate that condemns the bill. Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and James Oberstar sent a letter to President Obama urging him to speak out against the Uganda bill. That letter said, in part:
The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 is by far the most extreme and hateful attempt by an African country to criminalize the LGBT community. It would increase the penalty for “same sex sexual acts” to life in prison, limit the distribution of information on HIV through a provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” and establish the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death for anyone in Uganda who is HIV positive and has consensual same-sex relations. Further, the bill includes a provision that could lead to the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are, to the government.
Locally, the Minneapolis City Council has passed a resolution condemning the "kill gays" bill. Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was on hand for a the "American Prayer Hour" which was held last month as a response to the Uganda bill. The event was also a critique of the "National Prayer Breakfast," which is hosted each year by members of the secretive evangelical group, "The Family."
"It’s a terrifying thing that a religious organization can justify the silencing or annihilation of anyone just because of who they are,” American Prayer Hour organizer Rev. Laurie Crelly told TheColu.mn, a Minnesota-based LGBT news website. “We’re defending a Christianity and a faith tradition that would be totally opposed to what’s going on” in the US and Uganda, she said.
Minnesotans should be proud that their elected leaders are looking out for the human rights of LGBT people half a world away. However, among Minnesota's Republican and evangelical leaders, there's been a definitive silence about Uganda's intent to violate the human rights of its LGBT community.