“I disagree with him on that,” Obama told BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel during an interview that took place at the White House shortly before leaving for Kenya and Ethiopia.
Ruto earlier this month during a speech at a Nairobi church sharply criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the United States. He also suggested that LGBT rights advocates should leave the country.
“As somebody who has family in Kenya and knows the history of how the country so often is held back because women and girls are not treated fairly, I think those same values apply when it comes to different sexual orientations,” Obama told Sopel.
Obama also noted during the interview that he raised LGBT rights during a 2013 press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall in his country’s capital. Obama’s comments came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in the Windsor case.
“The president there, President Sall, is doing a wonderful job in moving the country forward — a strong democrat,” said Obama. “But in a press conference, I was very blunt about my belief that everybody deserves fair treatment, equal treatment in the eyes of the law and the state.”
“And that includes gays, lesbians, transgender persons,” he added. “I am not a fan of discrimination and bullying of anybody on the basis of race, on the basis of religion, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender. And I think that this is actually part and parcel of the agenda that’s also going to be front and center, and that is how are we treating women and girls.”
Kenyan politicians and religious leaders have urged Obama not to raise LGBT rights while in the country in which is father was born.
The head of the Republican Liberty Party earlier this month announced that 5,000 people would march naked in Nairobi during Obama’s visit to the Kenyan capital. Media reports indicate the planned protest has been cancelled.
Reuters reported that President Uhuru Kenyatta this week said he and Obama plan to discuss trade and security issues related to al-Shabab that has carried out a number of terrorist attacks in the East African country in recent years. The Kenyan head of state described LGBT rights as “a non issue to the people of this country.”
“It’s definitely not on our agenda at all,” said Kenyatta, according to Reuters. “We as a country, as a continent, are faced with much more serious issues which we would want to engage the U.S. and all our partners with.”
Obama is scheduled to travel to Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa before returning to the U.S. on July 28.
Ethiopia and Kenya are among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual acts are criminalized. Homosexuality in portions of neighboring Somalia remains punishable by death.
Randy Berry, the special U.S. envoy to promote global LGBT rights, traveled to Uganda earlier this month.