Ugandan President Will Only Sign Antigay Bill If Science Proves It's A Choice

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com January 27 2014 6:15 PM ET

Uganda's president announced that he will not sign the country's pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill until he sees conclusive scientific proof that gay people are "made, not born," according to Ugandan newspaper the Observer

"Unless I have got confirmation from scientists that this condition is not genetic, but a behavior that is acquired, I will not sign the bill," President Yoweri Museveni said, according to an anonymous source who spoke with the Observer.

Museveni first declined to sign the bill January 17, blasting the haphazard — and possibly illegal — manner in which the bill was passed December 20, without sufficient members of Parliament present to establish a quorum. But while the president has yet to sign the legislation, his recent statements belie deep-seated homophobic beliefs. In a letter to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga in January, the president said that gay people are "abnormal" and can be "cured" of their same-sex sexual desires. 

In his most recent comments, Museveni reportedly told members of Parliament that he supports the bill's imposition of lifetime prison sentences for those who "promote, abate, recruit and support homosexuality," but that he was more hesitant to approve the law "if it seeks to punish homosexuals," according to the Observer. 

Homosexuality is already illegal in the East African nation, and violence against the country's LGBT population has been steadily increasing since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in 2009, according to activists on the ground. When the legislation was first introduced in Parliament, it called for the death of anyone who committed "aggravated homosexuality," which included repeated "offenses," sexual relationships in which either person was HIV-positive, or any encounter that involved a minor. 

The version of the legislation passed in December reportedly removed the capital punishment provision but would impose lifetime prison sentences on LGBT people and would require anyone with knowledge of a "known homosexual" to report that person to the authorities or face up to five years in prison themselves. LGBT Ugandan activists note that they have yet to see the actual text of the bill as passed, so whether or not the capital punishment provision remains in the draft law is unclear.