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Will session expire before Uganda acts on anti-gay bill?

AP report saying death penalty no longer in bill disputed; Citi and Barclays weigh in

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Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality (photo courtesy of Council for Global Equality)

A new hope is emerging that the legislative session for Uganda’s parliament will expire before lawmakers take action on a draconian anti-gay bill amid new developments related to the legislation on Friday in various parts of the world.

LGBT advocates had previously said the parliament as soon as this week would take up the anti-gay legislation, which would institute a sentence of life prison for homosexual acts and perhaps in some cases the death penalty. The bill would also prohibit the promotion of LGBT rights and fine or jail certain individuals who neglect to report gay people to the authorities.

However, those fears were abated after Parliament Speaker Kadaga Rebecca reportedly suspended sessions this week after a raucous that broke out over an unrelated bill about authority on petroleum agreements.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said parliament may come into session again at the start next week, but the oil bill and not the anti-gay bill would likely be the first order the business.

“The parliament is still suspended,” Bromley said. “My understanding is the speaker asked for a report on the raucous two days and that report should go to her on Monday, so I think there’s a chance the parliament might come back into session on Monday, and if so, the expectation is that they will continue with the oil bill, which is still quite contentious and could take up a certain amount time.”

LGBT advocates had been hoping the legislative session for the Ugandan parliament would expire on Dec. 14 before lawmakers have an opportunity to take up the anti-gay bill. Kadaga, a supporter of the legislation, has said Uganda wants to see the legislation passed as a Christmas present.

Bromley expressed hope that these difficulties facing the parliament may mean the legislature won’t take action on the anti-gay bill.

“It’s dangerous to predict anything and certainly the bill is dangerous enough and popular enough that we shouldn’t let our guard down,” Bromley said. “But I think given the intense debate and some of the procedural hurdles that still remain in front of the anti-homosexuality bill, I think there is at least a hope that it could be delayed until after the holiday, which would advocates on the ground and elsewhere more time to really try to make a persuasive case for the parliament to drop the bill altogether.”

Bahati quoted as saying death penalty removed, but report meets skepticism

Perhaps the most noteworthy development on Friday was a report from the Associated Press in which David Bahati, the author of the legislation, asserted the controversial death penalty provision had been removed from the bill.

Parliamentarian David Bahati said the bill, which is expected to be voted on next month, had “moved away from the death penalty after considering all the issues that have been raised.”

“There is no death penalty,” he told The Associated Press.

Bahati said the bill now focuses on protecting children from gay pornography, banning gay marriage, counseling gays, as well as punishing those who promote gay culture. Jail terms are prescribed for various offenses, he said, offering no details. The most recent version of the bill hasn’t been publicly released.

In response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade, Hillary Renner, a State Department spokesperson for African affairs, said she’s unable to confirm the death penalty was dropped and referred to the Uganda government from more information.

“With or without the inclusion of the death penalty, we have made clear on numerous occasions that the United States opposes the anti-homosexuality bill,” Renner added. “The bill is currently in committee and has not reached the full parliament for consideration. As with all domestic legislation, it is up to the Ugandan parliament to determine whether to approve this bill.”

Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway took issue with reporting and — in a blog post titled “AP Is Wrong: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Still Has The Death Penalty” — warned readers not to believe the report because the only full parliament has the authority to change the bill. Earlier this week, a source at the U.S. embassy in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, told the Blade the committee doesn’t have authority to change the bill or remove its death penalty and can only make recommendations for the full parliament to consider.

Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out, a grassroots organization in the United States drawing attention to the anti-gay bill, was among those expressing skepticism that the death penalty provision has in fact been removed.

“David Bahati is one of the architects of Uganda’s anti-gay bill,” Banks said. “Bahati told the AP the death penalty was removed from the bill, yet no one has actually seen the latest version of the bill to confirm Bahati’s claim, Until we see the bill, and it has moved out of a committee that actually has the power to make substantive changes, we must assume the worst.”

Germany suspends foreign aid to Uganda for structural assistance

Another news development took place in Germany where Dirk Niebel, the country’s minister of Economic Cooperation & Development, reportedly said it is suspending foreign aid for Uganda for three years as result of reports of misuse of 13 million euros in foreign funds.

German funds weren’t affected, and other concerns, such as the misuse of funds and violence in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, are the reason. Nonetheless Niebel cites the anti-homosexuality bill as a reason for concern.

Via Google Translate, Niebel is quoted as saying, “We are concerned that the debate about a tightening of legislation against homosexuals in Uganda resurgence Who fired the debate in Uganda, know the needs that he so the international image of the country causing damage Should human rights discrimination in.. Ugandan Parliament be adopted, it could not remain without consequences for our cooperation.”

Bromley clarified these cuts are related to structural assistance only and wouldn’t affect certain programs.

“My understanding is that the German government decided to cut direct structural assistance from Germany to the government to the government of Uganda, but that their investments in development and other programs will continue,” Bromley said. “So, it’s not an across-the-board cut, but it’s a temporary suspension of direct structural assistance to the government.”

Britain, Sweden and the European Union have also threatened to cut foreign aid from Uganda directly as result of the anti-gay bill if it’s passed into law. U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi was quoted in a Uganda paper as saying foreign aid won’t be cut to Uganda as a result of the reported misuse of funds, but the United States hasn’t weighed in on cuts as a result of the anti-gay legislation.

Citi, Barclays respond to calls for them to condemn anti-gay bill

Two financial institutions with significant investments in Uganda have also weighed in on the anti-gay petition, although advocates who were seeking statements from the companies say a greater public outcry is needed.

David Roskin, a Citi spokesperson, delivered the response to the Blade via email in response to Change.org petition asking Citibank – as well as Barclays — to speak out publicly against the legislation. As of Friday, the online petition had more than 513,000 signatures.

“While the laws and cultural norms in some countries where Citi operates differ from commonly accepted global standards for human rights, Citi supports equality without regard for race, gender, disability, age, nationality, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics,” Roskin said.

The response makes no direct mention of the anti-gay bill in Uganda. Asked in a follow-up email whether this response mean Citi opposes the anti-gay Uganda legislation, Roskin referred to earlier his statement.

A Change.org statement published on Friday also includes a statement from Barclays saying the company is “engaging at appropriate levels of the Ugandan government” with respect to the anti-gay legislation.

“Barclays has a strong history of supporting all aspects of diversity, both in the workplace and in wider society. Equally, we are proud of playing our part in the development of economies across Africa, and the key role Barclays plays in the lives of millions of our African customers.”

“Barclays is aware of the proposed legislation relating to homosexuality in Uganda and we are engaging at appropriate levels of the Ugandan Government to express our views.”

According to Change.org, Citibank has almost $300 million in assets invested in Uganda and is a major leader in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce based in Kampala. Barclays, Uganda’s third largest bank, has more than 1,000 employees and 51 branches throughout the country.

Collin Burton, a Citibank customer who launched the petition, rebuked the companies for the response — calling the Citi statement “dismissive” and “contradictory” — and said the company needs to come out more explicitly against the legislation.

“I’m disappointed that Citi delivered a dismissive statement that is not only contradictory in its very nature, but also serves as a reminder that Citi’s refusal to speak boldly on the issue poses a very real and dangerous threat to LGBT Ugandans, many of whom are also Citi customers,” Burton said. “I encourage Citibank and Barclays officials to live the values of equality outlined in their non-discrimination policies and courageously come out in staunch opposition to the Ugandan ‘Kill The Gays’ Bill. Their corporate voices will positively amplify those of the over 500,000 global citizens who have already spoken out by signing the petition.”

Asked whether he’ll continue to bank at Citi, Burton replied, “I’ll make that decision based upon the final outcome of our efforts.”

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Bruce Majors

    November 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Defunding and diplomatically isolating Uganda sounds like a worthy goal. But the United States sells 40 billion in weapons every year and gives additional money to Arab tyrannies that also kill gays, or allow them to be killed, along with oppression of Jews, Coptic Christians, women, etc. I don’t hear much about that among the gay agiterai.

  2. Marion Grace Woolley

    December 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    A 'new hope'? Absolutely not. Repeating the same process of shelving the bill that's been happening every year since 2008. This simply sanctions another year of people turning a blind eye to LGBT hate crimes, because they're fairly sure that a bill we be passed next year supporting their actions. Shelving the bill (again) is nowhere near a satisfactory outcome.

  3. Jessica Equality Naomi

    December 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Citibank US & Barclays UK care more about their own exploitation for profits in Uganda then do about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex employees or customers. They are not doing business in Uganda for human rights. They are exploiting the people there to make their stock holders & their executives wealthy. If they cared about human rights, they would take a stand against all the crimes against the Ugandan people perpetrated by the Ugandan government. Just like the rest of the American Chamber of Commerce THEY DO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT PEOPLE ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS PROFITS.

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National

In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date

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Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.

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Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality

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More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Fairfield, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick

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An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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