By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com January 03 2014 6:28 PM ET
A spokesman for Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni told reporters the president won't be rushed into signing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, passed by parliament December 20, which imposes lifetime prison sentences on anyone who repeatedly has same-sex sexual encounters.
"There has been pressure from religious leaders and parliament to sign the bill into law," Museveni spokesman Tamale Mirundi told Agence France-Presse Thursday, noting that Museveni "won't rush to assent the bill before he studies it. … President Museveni is a practical president, he takes decisions based on analysis and not on how many support or are against it."
The abrupt passage of the long-languishing legislation, first introduced in 2009 and at the time prescribing the death penalty for "repeat offenders" convicted of "aggravated homosexuality," sparked international outcry. President Obama has called the legislation "odious," and the Human Rights Campaign called the December passage a "shameful sneak attack" on Ugandans by their own elected representatives. The Washington Blade notes that the U.S. State Department, Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the U.K. Foreign Office, and the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights have all condemned the bill's passage as an affront to civil rights and the basic human rights of LGBT people in Uganda.
But the bill's primary sponsor, MP David Bahati, applauded the legislation's initial approval as "a victory for Uganda" and a triumph over "evil." The bill reportedly has widespread and overwhelming support among Ugandans, and has been backed by American right-wing evangelicals as an appropriate solution to counter the so-called homosexual agenda. Massachusetts-based preacher Scott Lively is currently facing international persecution charges for his long-standing dedication to stoking antigay animus within the Ugandan parliament.
Although the capital punishment provision was removed from the version of the bill passed last month, the legislation on Museveni's desk retains a provision that imposes three-year jail sentences for anyone who does not report a "known homosexual" to police. Homosexuality was already illegal in the East African nation, but the new bill criminalizes LGBT identities even further, outlawing the "public promotion of homosexuality," including discussion by LGBT rights groups, according to AFP.
While it remains to be seen if Museveni will sign the bill, even if he issues a veto, LGBT activists on the ground in Uganda expect parliamentary support to be strong enough to override the president's veto with a two-thirds vote in support of the legislation.