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Democrats Push to Block Defense Funds to Uganda Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Law

Democrats Push to Block Defense Funds to Uganda Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Law

Rep. Robert Garcia

Using the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, two LGBTQ+ members of Congress have joined forces to hold up funds to the African country.

On the heels of Congress returning to Washington, D.C., gay California Rep. Robert Garcia submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act restricting U.S. security assistance to Uganda over that country’s recently enacted anti-LGBTQ+ law.

Garcia is joined by fellow queer representative Equality Caucus cochair Rep. Becca Balint of Vermont, demanding that no American dollars be sent to Uganda.

“None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense are authorized to be made available to provide assistance for the Uganda Police Force or Uganda People’s Defense Force, including assistance in the form of equipment or training or to coordinate joint exercises with such groups,” the amendment states.

Garcia told The Advocate in a statement, “The law passed in Uganda earlier this year is a stark violation of our fundamental principles, punishing individuals for their very identity and love.”

In May, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a measure that expanded the country's current criminalization of homosexuality. Now even the so-called promotion of homosexuality is illegal, and sometimes homosexuality can lead to execution.

“By taking this action, we send a clear message that we will not turn a blind eye to the persecution and marginalization of LGBTQ+ individuals,” Garcia said.

The NDAA must be passed to fund the Pentagon’s nearly $1 trillion budget. So far, more than 1,500 amendments have been filed from both sides of the aisle.

Before they can be considered for a vote, the House Rules Committee needs to approve the amendments. There are 13 members on the Rules Committee: nine Republicans, including three from the far-right Freedom Caucus, and four Democrats.

“I’m building on the foundation of the first bill I introduced, the International Human Rights Defense Act,” Garcia said. “Our support should be reserved for nations that uphold the essential values of human rights, dignity, and freedom for all their citizens.”

The act Garcia referenced would direct the State Department to document and respond to bias-motivated violence against LGBTQ+ people abroad and create a national strategy to prevent and address criminalization, discrimination, and violence against LGBTQ+ communities in the future.

At the time Uganda's latest anti-LGBTQ+ law passed, Human Rights Watch said, "Museveni’s signing of the anti-homosexuality bill is a serious blow to multiple fundamental rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and association, privacy, equality, and nondiscrimination. The Ugandan government is obligated to guarantee these rights for all people, including sexual minorities. It should take steps to create an environment that prevents violence and discrimination against LGBT people, in Uganda and the region."

U.S. officials have regarded Uganda as a critical security partner in East Africa for over a decade. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Defense Department has spent more than $280 million on equipment and training for Uganda since 2011.

Uganda has also been the largest recipient of U.S. funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, which has cost the U.S. roughly $2.5 billion overall, according to the nonpartisan Stimson Center, which studies geopolitical dynamics around solutions for global peace.

The funding includes “train and equip” allocations, of which Uganda is a significant recipient on the African continent. Also, in Uganda, the United States has a long-standing military base in Entebbe. Various U.S. training exercises are regularly held in Uganda, and Ugandan forces are also regularly sent overseas for U.S. schooling.

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