White House, State Department Silent On Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

The Obama administration has expressed strong opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which has included the death penalty as a possible punishment, in the past. But neither the White House nor the State Department had comment Friday on the latest consideration of the bill.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, in Myanmar on Nov. 19, 2012, have not yet commented on the latest introduction of a “draconian” anti-gay bill in Uganda.

The White House and State Department provided no comment on Friday on the most recent introduction in Uganda of a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have harshly condemned in the past.

The speaker of the Ugandan parliament recently stated that she would ensure passage of the bill, which has included the death penalty as a possible punishment for homosexuality in certain circumstances and has not been passed other times it was considered after receiving significant international opposition.

“Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we’ll give them that gift,” parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga told Reuters.

A State Department spokesperson said Friday that there was no statement at this time on the newest iteration of the legislation but that one could come in the coming week. The spokesperson did, however, reference the administration’s earlier condemnation of the legislation.

In the past, Obama has spoken out against the bill, telling those assembled at the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2010, “We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or, as [Secretary of State] Hillary [Clinton] mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”

In her International Human Rights Day remarks about LGBT rights in December 2011, Clinton stated, “It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished.”

According to the latest reports from Uganda, the bill has been considered by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and it has completed its report on the bill. The report has not yet been made public. Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway, who has tracked the bill’s progress in Uganda for years, cautioned on Friday against believing reports that claim the death-penalty provision has been dropped from the legislation, as such claims have repeatedly been proven inaccurate in the past.

According to the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda, the draft bill’s provisions are “draconian.” Among them, according to the group, are:

• “Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty.”

• “Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $2,650 or three years in prison.”

• “Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties.”

• “And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.”

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