June 3, 2014 | by Justin Peligri
HRC urges Obama to take action on Uganda
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Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. (Washington Blade file by Michael Key).

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin penned a letter to the Obama administration this week, asking the president to take a more aggressive stance against harassment, property loss and violence against LGBT Ugandans ever since the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposes a life sentence on any person engaging in same-sex sexual behavior.

“I respectfully ask that you direct the Administration’s interagency review to begin issuing immediate, concrete results that will illustrate the United States’ commitment to protecting human rights in Uganda,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in the letter.

Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the Blade in a statement Tuesday that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act “runs counter to universal human rights and to human dignity.”

For the past three months, the Obama administration has said it plans to “review” its relationship with Uganda.

Ventrell noted that when Uganda’s anti-gay law was first instituted, the administration responded by diverting funds away from anti-gay tourism programs and religious groups in Uganda. Additionally, the Department of Defense cancelled scheduled events in the country, and Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to discuss “why what he did could not be based on any kind of science or fact.”

The HRC’s letter pushes the administration to take more definitive steps – not only in Uganda, but also in other nations with equally discriminatory legislation on the books.

“An immediate demonstration of significant consequences, moreover, will put other leaders who are considering similar bills on notice that enacting anti-LGBT laws will effect their country’s relationship with the United States,” Griffin wrote. “A further review that incorporates Nigeria, Russia, and Brunei – countries that recently passed heinous anti-LGBT laws – is also imperative to signal to the world that these consequences are not directed solely towards Africa.”

American leaders have said that diverting funds from Uganda – especially dollars previously aimed toward groups fighting HIV/AIDS like the anti-gay Inter-Religious Council of Uganda – could cause trouble for the country if it continues to cling to the Anti-Homosexual Act.

“The backwardness of the new law is damaging Uganda’s international reputation and could jeopardize progress in fighting HIV/AIDS, attracting foreign investment and promoting tourism,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in February.

“Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody,” Museveni said in a statement Feb. 18. “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.”

Uganda is one of more than 70 countries where homosexuality remains criminalized and next week, the nation’s anti-gay ideals could gain more prominence on the international stage.

Uganda’s foreign minister, Sam Kutesa, who supports the anti-gay law, was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly. He’ll assume that post next week after being elected by the African Union “acclamation,” without a single ballot being cast.

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