February 21, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Uganda president: Nobody should ‘impose their views on us’

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has responded to President Obama’s criticism of him over his decision to sign a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody,” said Museveni in a Feb. 18 statement the Washington Blade obtained on Friday, referring to Obama’s comments on the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill he issued earlier this week. “We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.”

Museveni said he sought “scientific opinions” on whether people were “born homosexual” before he announced on Feb. 14 he would sign the controversial measure his country’s lawmakers approved late last year. The Ugandan president specifically cited Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy – with whom he met last month – for sending him information from U.S. scientists who said “there could be some indications that homosexuality could be congenital.”

Museveni said scientists from the Ugandan Ministry of Health and two other agencies came to a “unanimous conclusion” that “homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioral and not genetic.”

“I have now received their signed document, which says there is no single gene that has been traced to cause homosexuality,” said the Ugandan president. “What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual. Then my task will be finished and I will sign the bill.”

Museveni’s Feb. 18 statement came a day before reports emerged he had signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. The Ugandan government did not return the Blade’s request for comment, and the RFK Center and other organizations were unable to confirm the reports.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni in the East African country on Jan. 23, told the Blade on Thursday. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

Uganda is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of a Ugandan LGBT rights group that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled Sexual Minorities Uganda’s lawsuit can move forward.

Lively and other anti-gay advocates held a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington on Friday where they unveiled a new coalition designed to combat the global LGBT rights movement.

“We unequivocally condemn any violence against anyone, including homosexuals,” said Lively in response to the Blade’s question about the SMUG lawsuit and whether he feels the new coalition will further exacerbate anti-LGBT violence in Uganda, Russia and other countries with controversial gay rights records. “We believe that existing laws in every country are sufficient to protect people from that kind of violence. Anyone who engages in violence against people like that should be prosecuted and punished.”

Two LGBT rights advocates heckled Lively and others who spoke at the press conference for several minutes before security personnel escorted them from the room in which it was taking place.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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