WASHINGTON—The United States is pressing Uganda not to pass an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill," a spokeswoman for the State Department said Monday.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was in Uganda this weekend, reiterating the administration's "vocal" concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration there, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Regarding questions about the death penalty, which has been a penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" in earlier versions of the bill, Nuland said she didn't know whether the State Department has seen a version of the bill as passed by a legislative committee in Uganda's parliament.
"They’ve been a little bit close hold about this, partly because there’s been so much controversy in the international community. So our concern is about any criminalization of homosexuality, obviously," she said.
Monday's comments came after the State Department and White House had provided no new comments this past Friday.
The extended exchange, from a State Department press briefing Monday, follows:
QUESTION: Yeah, I have a question on Uganda, actually. There’s an anti-homosexuality bill that’s making its way through the legislature right there. What is the State Department’s current assessment of where that bill is and if that’s going to be headed toward a vote anytime soon?
MS. NULAND: Again, Assistant Secretary Carson was also in Uganda over the weekend. He had a chance to raise again our concerns about this issue, which we’ve been very vocal about. Our understanding is that a version of the bill has now passed a committee in Uganda. As we have regularly said, we call on the parliament in Uganda to look very carefully at this, because Uganda’s own human rights council has made clear that if this were to pass, it would put the country out of compliance with its own international human rights obligations. And so Assistant Secretary Carson had a chance to make that point again and our strong opposition to this, to the president, to the parliament, and to key decision makers in Uganda.
QUESTION: And there was – and once the bill had a provision that would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts. As far as the State Department knows, has that provision been removed or is it still in the bill?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t know that we have actually seen the version that passed committee. They’ve been a little bit close hold about this, partly because there’s been so much controversy in the international community. So our concern is about any criminalization of homosexuality, obviously.
QUESTION: And one last question. Some countries, Britain and Sweden, have threatened to cut foreign aid to Uganda if this bill becomes law. Is there any consideration in the U.S. Administration to cut foreign aid to Uganda if that bill becomes law?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into any hypothetical situations. Our focus now is on raising awareness of the concerns within Uganda about this bill so that we don’t get to that stage.
* * *
Q: On this, Toria. Did Secretary Carson meet with the speaker of the parliament?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is he did see the speaker of the parliament, whether it was in a larger group or whether it was a distinct meeting that he did, yes.
Q: But he – so he made that point directly to her?
MS. NULAND: Yes, he did.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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