Death sentence to remain in Uganda anti-gay bill

Mon. December 14, 2009 12:00 AM by

The rhetoric over an anti-gay bill in Uganda has reached new heights this week as the controversy received increased visibility.

In Uganda, the bill's sponsor, MP David Bahati, told Kampala-based The Observer that he was undeterred by international pressure to drop the bill's death sentence provisions for repeat offenders and people who are HIV-positive.

"Since we started this cause, there has been a lot of speculation and manipulation on the part of the pro-gay community to try and divert us from defending our family values," Bahati said. "There is no amount of pressure or intimidation that will deter us from preventing our children from being lured into this evil."

Earlier reports indicated that the death provisions might be dropped in the bill's final draft. There is wide support for the bill that increases penalties for being gay in a country where it's already illegal.

While anti-gay sentiment in Africa has risen significantly in recent years and being gay is illegal in 37 nations on the continent, Uganda has received the lion's share of attention because of the involvement of prominent U.S. evangelicals, including the Rev. Rick Warren, who recently distanced himself from the bill.

Scott Lively, founder of the anti-gay Abiding Truth Ministries, is often mentioned as an architect of the bill. Lively has promoted controversial anti-gay theories, including the idea that gay rights are dangerous because Germany's Nazi Party was ruled by gay men. While Lively admits traveling to Uganda in March, he says his testimony in front of the nation's leaders was largely ignored.

In a post published at, Lively simultaneously commends "the courage of the Uganda people" to resist "the enormous power and relentless pressure of the international 'gay' lobby" and calls the proposed law "a serious overcorrection." In the end, however, he endorses the bill, if the death provisions were removed.

"Let me be absolutely clear. I do not support the proposed anti-homosexuality law as written," Lively says. "It does not emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and the punishment that it calls for is unacceptably harsh. However, if the offending sections were sufficiently modified, the proposed law would represent an encouraging step in the right direction."

Lively, then, supports other controversial measures found in the bill, including criminalizing the "promotion of homosexuality," which would effectively ban political organizations, broadcasters and publishers that advocate on behalf of gay rights, and turning friends and family members of gay men and lesbians into criminals if they failed to report a violation.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a group that fights the "ex-gay" movement, recognized Bahati's characterization of being gay as a "learned behavior [that] can be unlearned" as a quote from Richard Cohen's "ex-gay" book Coming Out Straight.

"It is amazing that the lives of GLBT Ugandans hang in the balance because of an idiotic book printed by an obvious madman like Cohen," Besen said.

"Is heterosexuality really that weak in Uganda?" he asked. "It sure seems like it based on the hysteria and pandemonium surrounding gay people. Particularly Mr. Bahati, who seems, based on his rhetoric, like he might mount a man any second if his clownish bill isn't ramrodded through the legislature."

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine