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Obama blasts Uganda president over anti-gay bill

Measure ‘step backward for all Ugandans’

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Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama on Sunday blasted Uganda President Yoweri Museveni over his announcement that he plans to sign his country’s so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

President Obama on Sunday sharply criticized Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni after announcing he plans to sign a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda,” said Obama. “It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”

Obama further stressed his administration has “conveyed” to Museveni that “enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.”

“At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons,” said Obama.

Obama’s statement comes two days after Museveni signaled to Ugandan parliamentarians that he intends to sign the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Museveni told Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy, two of her organizations staffers and Archbishop Desmond Tutu during a Jan. 18 meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, that he would reject the “fascist” measure that lawmakers in the East African country approved late last year. The RFK Center said at the time the Ugandan president “promised” the organization during a meeting last March that he would not sign “any bill that discriminates against any individual.”

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

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan last month signed a draconian bill into law that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership in LGBT advocacy groups. Anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in neighboring Cameroon, Zimbabwe and other African countries have also made headlines over the last year.

“When it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally,” said Obama last June during a press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall that took place in Dakar, Senegal, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8. “I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort. That’s my personal view. And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.”

Obama reiterated this sentiment in response to Museveni’s announcement that he plans to sign his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

“As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights,” said Obama. “We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Dionte Love

    February 16, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Thank you President Obama.

    • Chris

      February 17, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      You sound stupid

  2. Paul Reedy Jr.

    February 16, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Mr.President Obama.
    Im a person who lives in the state of Teenasee. The legalatets in Nashville,.TN.,are trying to pass a bill that would allow any person that provides a service to refews to provide a service to any one that is gay or Transgender,or what ever name you want to use. All ready in Kanses,thay have such a bill.and in some other state. Why you Mr.Obama are off visiting some other country,the (Republicans) are meeting hinde closed does and trying to say that gays Trans Bis Lilies or so forth are not egule. Pleas Mr. Obama.,rember when you were just a kid.Or your parents were younger. Rember the sinks. Whites only Blacks only. Rember restronts would say we don't serve blacks.

  3. Halimah Kasim

    February 17, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Uganda is a Godly country and not a member of the illuminat. so Please donot scare us with that aid coz you also didnt marry a man.

    • El Dorado

      February 18, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Uganda is a backward country, if you don’t want our aid…good! We have better ways to spend our money. Let your churches make up for it! Further, I hope the decent countries of the world stop offering safaris to your country in response!

  4. Batte Charles

    February 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Mr. President.
    You once said you know Uganda well, but as a person who is a black and a person knowing Uganda well, do you think we can easily let go our lovely, Godly Uganda just because of what you and other people have created against our own culture and will, i love to have sex i hope you do, but why should i love to have positive side of it, i enjoy to look into the eyes of my wife, my mum, my sisters, but not a man in man and women in women. Can u imagine going to Ugandan Introduction of the same sex, imagine hoe long will take Ugandans to build this culture of same sex. wawoo. God Bless Uganda.

    • El Dorado

      February 18, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Flush Uganda and its homophobia!

  5. Mariam Nakyeyune

    February 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    What this man should know, is we the citizens of Uganda DO NOT NEED men on men or women on women, it is forbidden by the God u ask to save America in the statements you make. Yes we are are poor country and you give us aid, but do not bully us into your nonsense like you bully other countries. we do have a say when it comes to issues concerning our beloved country, we have enough troubles already, please don't break up our country, don't be the cause of civil wars. Let our president make the rules of his country. Note. The bill is not the issue compared to the anger most Ugandan's have when it comes to protecting their children from such bad influence.

    • El Dorado

      February 18, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      What’s there to love about Uganda? If your draconian measure becomes law, I hope the decent people of the world stop giving you aid, you want laws like this then foot your own expenses and take care of your damn selves. We don’t need to endorse your BS. Let the churches support you then. I also hope tour companies stop promoting safaris to your country in response!

    • El Dorado

      February 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      We don’t owe you money! If you take our money, then you need to abide by certain expectations to get it! If you don’t want it fine. Let the churches give you aid then. I hope all the decent countries of the world all cut off your aid if this becomes law and that they stop offering safaris to your country! You should not be rewarded for treating human beings worse than your treat animals!

  6. Ian Esotericmiddlename Zulick

    February 18, 2014 at 12:25 am

    I doubt God exists, but if he does, in the Christian sense, I think he'd be appalled at homophobia and laws such as this. There is no reason to keep people from loving each other; there's little enough of it in this world.

  7. amoit

    February 18, 2014 at 2:43 am

    WHY?

  8. Aaron White

    February 19, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    But Honestly Mr.Obama do you believe that countries have values they leave for?? why are so much concerned about this wicked act gayism yet your doing nothing in central africa were people are massacring ech other,we are fed up of this double standards….your supporting a man to marry a fellow man ..Mr Obama honestly and you want our chidlren to see that

  9. Fixam

    February 23, 2014 at 10:41 am

    More than five million people are dead in Congo, millions are dying in Sudan and Central African Republic and here is my president tough talking on Africans to change their cultures over night “Good luck”

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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