The Constitutional Court of Uganda today did what President Yoweri Museveni actively refused to do. It did right by its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. More specifically, it ruled “null and void” a noxious statute he signed in February that made them outlaws in their own country.
Now, before you break out the rainbow flags, this victory is by no means a ringing endorsement of the right of LGBT Ugandans to live without fear of being jailed for life just because of who they are. The court threw out the law because of a technicality, finding that the parliament lacked a quorum when it passed the law. “The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum,” the court said in its ruling, according to a report by the Associated Press. “We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.” Fine. That’ll do, I suppose.
The Ugandan court’s action is similar to what the U.S. Supreme Court did in the Proposition 8 case. That’s the one where same-sex couples were suing to get the state’s ban on marriage equality overturned and seeking a constitutional right to marry in the process. The high court upheld a lower court ruling overturning the ban on a technicality. It ruled that the pro-Prop-8 peeps lacked standing to even bring a case. As a result, same-sex couples were allowed to legally married in California.
Contrast that happy outcome to what just happened in Uganda. Now that the “anti-homosexuality” law has been tossed, the penalty of 14 years for a first-time offense and life imprisonment for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” is gone. So is the threat of arrest for “promoting homosexuality” or not reporting a gay or lesbian person to the authorities. But a colonial-era law that criminalizes gay sex remains on the books. And as Ty Cobb, director of global engagement for Human Rights Campaign, said, “Uganda’s Parliament could seek to once again further enshrine anti-LGBT bigotry into its nation’s law.”
That the Ugandan court acted today makes it possible for Museveni to arrive Monday for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit without being stalked by the shadow of his globally condemned anti-gay law. But he made his stance on homosexuality quite clear when he signed the homophobic legislation into law in February. “Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people, but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money.” He also said, “There’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values. We’re sorry to see that you [the West] live the way you live, but we keep quiet about it.”
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