Update, Wednesday, 12:08 p.m.: The office of the president in Uganda has released a statement about the anti-gay bill: “It does not form part of the government’s legislative program and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. However as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that if a private members bill is presented to parliament it be debated.” The statement also said that no one in Uganda has ever been charged with the criminal offense of homosexuality.
As a U.S. federal appeals court Tuesday struck down Prop 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban since 2008, another battle for gay rights played out in Africa.
In its first iteration, the bill suggested the death penalty for homosexual acts, cases of same-sex rape and for people living with HIV. The bill sparked an international outcry, including from President Obama.
But while Prop 8 has had many detractors in the U.S., it’s a different story for Uganda’s anti-gay bill.
Homosexuality is stigmatized in the country and already illegal under the penal code. The anti-gay bill has garnered wide support at home, according to opinion polls.
Ugandan parliamentarian David Bahati, who introduced the bill, has said homosexuality threatens family values and poses “dangers to our children.”
And the AP reports other lawmakers have also “spoken passionately about the need for such a law,” and that none have come forward to condemn it.
A Ugandan couple, who wishes to remain anonymous (pictured at left), told the AFP last month that they had been insulted and assaulted in the capital Kampala ever since the bill was introduced. They fled to Kenya last year.
Pentecostal clerics in Uganda, too, support the bill, as they believe young men are increasingly at risk of become gay because of visits by gays from the U.S. and Europe.
Solomon Male, a Pentecostal cleric who accused a pastor of sodomy, told the AP: “It is a big problem — homosexuals are in our schools, in our churches, everywhere, and we don’t even know where to start.”
Contrast this with the comments of the Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Pasadena Church in California, who predicted Monday that Prop 8 would be overturned:
Tomorrow's ruling will be another step toward putting California back on the right side of marriage equality history and undoing the shameful act of allowing a bare majority of voters to write discrimination into our constitution.
The 2-1 decision Tuesday, made by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, found that Prop 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.
The ruling is likely to be limited to California, but the U.S. Supreme Court will also rule on gay marriage as early as next year.