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U.S. lawmakers spurn Ugandan LGBT activists

Inhofe-led delegation to reportedly meet with East African country’s president

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Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

A congressional delegation is scheduled to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in his country’s capital on Jan. 23. (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Washington Blade has learned a congressional delegation is expected to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni next week amid outrage over the passage of a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) will lead the delegation that includes U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Erik Paulsen who are scheduled to travel to Uganda on Jan. 23. A source familiar with the trip told the Blade the lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Museveni while they are in the East African country.

A copy of an itinerary the source forwarded to the Blade indicates the lawmakers will also travel to Germany, Turkey, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda and Niger before returning to the U.S. on Jan. 26.

“The purpose of the CODEL’s (congressional delegation’s) engagements in Africa is to better understand how to address the ‘Arc of Instability’ through the center of Africa so the SASC (Senate Armed Services Committee) can support USG (U.S. government) efforts to address the underlying causes of our problems on the continent rather than just reacting to the symptoms,” it reads.

The source familiar with the trip told the Blade the delegation will focus on efforts to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army that led a bloody insurgency against the Ugandan government from 1986-2006. Inhofe and other U.S. lawmakers are also expected to discuss counter-terrorism efforts against the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab, the escalating conflict in South Sudan and “other U.S. interests.”

The source told the Blade the lawmakers have rejected Ugandan LGBT rights advocates’ requests to meet with them while in the East African country.

“We understand that Sen. Inhofe will be meeting with President Museveni and we believe other officials in Uganda on Jan. 23,” Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch told the Blade on Friday. “We understand that they have been close for many, many years and maintain a great deal of dialogue on a range of issues. And given the recent events on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it seems like a crucial time for Sen. Inhofe to restate his lack of support of the bill quite clearly.”

Ugandan lawmakers on Dec. 20 approved the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that originally contained a provision that would have imposed the death penalty on anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The measure would also criminalize the promotion of homosexuality.

The White House, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay are among those who criticized the measure’s passage. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, announced after Ugandan lawmakers approved the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that his company would not do business in the country.

Museveni’s spokesperson told Agence France-Presse on Jan. 2 the Ugandan president “won’t rush” to sign the measure into law. A Ugandan newspaper on Friday reported Museveni has blocked the bill because Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga allowed a vote on the measure without the required number of lawmakers needed for quorum.

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 in Massachusetts on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. U.S. District Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled the group’s lawsuit can move forward.

Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, has ties to the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian evangelical group that hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast in D.C. Inhofe is also closely aligned with the secretive organization also known as “The Family.”

The Oklahoma Republican told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow during a 2012 interview he had “never heard” of Bahati when she asked him about the parliamentarians’ claims the idea for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill came from a conversation he had with members of the Fellowship.

“I do not, nor have I ever, supported or condoned this legislation,” said Inhofe in an Oct. 2011 statement to the website Red Dirt Report. “It is my hope that Uganda will abandon this unjust and extraordinarily harsh legislation.”

The Oklahoma Republican has not publicly spoken about the measure since Ugandan lawmakers approved it.

“Frankly this is not the only human rights issue that we think would be important for a high-level American delegation to raise with President Museveni,” Burnett told the Blade. “We have a lot of other concerns, such as obstacles to Ugandans rights to expression and assembly, but Senator Inhofe happens to be going at a particularly significant moment in the course of this bill.”

Inhofe’s spokesperson, Donelle Harder, denied reports the delegation will meet with the Ugandan president while in his country.

“It appears someone gave you a bad itinerary as the members are not meeting with Museveni,” she told the Blade. “Sen. Inhofe will be in Uganda briefly to meet with local officials regarding the [Lord’s Resistance Army.]”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson deferred to the staffers of the delegation members.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. grey

    January 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    update: Museveni vetoed the bill.

  2. Margeret Bashir

    January 20, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Why do Americans always believe that their view of the world, of life, of mores and norms is all that counts.? Why impose homosexual behaviour on people who do not accept this kind of conduct? Why is so hard to respect other people's (nations) views, that, culturally, often differ from America….a very young nation in comparison to Africa, Europe, Far East, Middle East…

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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