August 11, 2015 at 12:09 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S. officials attend Uganda Pride event

B'More Proud, gay news, Washington Blade

Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Uganda last week attended an event that officially kicked off a Pride celebration.

A State Department spokesperson on Monday said officials from the U.S. Embassy in Uganda last week attended a Pride-related event in the country’s capital.

John Kirby told the Washington Blade during his daily press briefing that “embassy officials from the public affairs and political sections were represented.” He did not specifically identify them, but said they attended a cocktail party in Kampala on Aug. 5 that officially opened the four-day Pride celebration.

More than 300 people on Aug. 8 attended a Pride parade in Kampala that took place without violence and other incidents. The event coincided with the year anniversary of the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruling that struck down the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act under which those convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts faced life in prison.

Pride organizer applauds Obama, blasts U.S. evangelical

Richard Lusimbo, an organizer of the Pride events who works for Sexual Minorities Uganda, an advocacy group known by the acronym SMUG, last week during a Skype interview with the Blade from Kampala applauded the White House’s efforts to emphasize LGBT rights around the world.

Randy Berry, the special U.S. envoy to promote global LGBT rights, on July 14 met with Lusimbo and other advocates in Kampala. President Obama a few days later during a Nairobi press conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta criticized Kenya’s LGBT rights record.

Lusimbo described these comments as “very beneficial.”

“President Obama has been a great supporter of equality and speaking out for rights of the LGBTI community around the world,” Lusimbo told the Blade. “His emphasis on talking about human rights in general terms, but also speaking about equality for LGBTI persons was really key in a way to send a strong message.”

Homosexuality remains criminalized in Uganda, even though the country’s controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Yoweri Museveni signed in February 2014 has been struck down.

The U.S. last summer cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials in the African country who are responsible for anti-LGBT and other human rights abuses. The Center for Constitutional Rights in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively, an American evangelical pastor, on behalf of SMUG for allegedly exploiting anti-gay attitudes in Uganda before Parliamentarian David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009.

Ugandan lawmakers have pledged to reintroduce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the country’s Parliament, but they have yet to do so. Lusimbo told the Blade that politicians, religious leaders and those with ties to Lively continue to “drum up support” for the anti-gay measure.

“That chain has not yet been broken,” said Lusimbo, referring to Lively and other American evangelicals who continue to support anti-LGBT initiatives outside the U.S. “In America there is progress on LGBTI equality for all and marriage now. Seeing part of that same population that is transporting homophobia to Uganda and the rest of Africa and the rest of the world is really frightening and uncalled for from such a society.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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