Tuesday was another split-screen day for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Great news out in the United States was tempered by harrowing events in Africa.
We were surprised Tuesday afternoon by the news that a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage ran afoul of the Constitution. It’s all very preliminary since the judge had the good sense to avoid the mess in Utah by staying his order until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on an expected appeal by Oklahoma state officials.
But said mess in Utah is nothing compared to what’s happening in Nigeria. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law on Monday. A gay marriage can result in up to 14 years in jail. Membership in or support for gay organizations and clubs can lead to imprisonment for up to 10 years. According to activists quoted by the AP, Nigerian police are hunting down gay men and torturing them into naming others. This ranks right up there with the ugly anti-gay laws of Uganda, where a bill trimmed back the punishment for being gay from death to life imprisonment.
“Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Tuesday. He added, “People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.” Unfortunately, leaders in other countries don’t seem to think so. Russia, India and Australia are just three nations that to varying degrees have singled out their LGBT citizens for prosecution or persecution or both.
Yes, it is irksome to watch a governor refuse to recognize legally married same-sex couples in his state. And it is frustrating to watch progress move slowly through U.S. courts. But at least it’s progress in a world that seems to be sprinting in the opposite direction.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj