President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both spoke out against religious-based discrimination against gay people -- including a Uganda bill that calls for the imprisonment and execution of gay people -- at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning.
Clinton said, "Every time I travel I raise the plight of girls and women and make it clear that we expect to see changes. And I recently called President Museveni, whom I have known through the prayer breakfast, and expressed the strongest concerns about a law being considered at the parliament of Uganda."
Obama added, "We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree to the need to lift our children out of ignorance, to lift our neighbors from poverty. We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it's here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extreme and odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda."
Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast without much controversy since it started in 1953. But Obama's attendance at this year's gathering was put under more scrutiny because the event's sponsor, a secretive evangelical network known as The Family, is believed to have ties to the Uganda politicians behind that country's proposed "kill the gays bill."
While urging Obama to speak out against the bill, gay and gay-friendly activists planned an alternative prayer event, the American Prayer Hour, for 19 cities around the country. Events are scheduled throughout the day in Anchorage; Athens, Ga.; Atlanta; Berkeley, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boynton Beach, Fla.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Charlottesville, Va.; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Glendale, Calif.; Largo, Fla.; Massies Mill, Va.; Minneapolis; New York City; Pinellas Park, Fla.; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. (Find location details here).
Earlier this week, gay Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson, who prayed at Obama's inaugural ceremony, helped organize the American Prayer Hour, and helped lobby the president to speak out against the Uganda bill at the National Prayer Breakfast, said, "I rather he go to the prayer breakfast and use it as a platform to denounce this attack on LGBT people."