November 12, 2015 at 12:25 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Berry dismisses claims foreign aid tied to marriage

Randy Berry, gay news, Washington Blade

Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI People Randy Berry this week criticized claims that foreign aid to African countries depends upon the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry earlier this week criticized claims that foreign aid to African countries depends upon whether they extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper, on Wednesday reported that Berry during his visit to the Vatican noted the U.S. last year suspended “certain types of aid” to Uganda in response to President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which sought to impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The Constitutional Court of Uganda in August 2014 struck down the statute on a technicality.

“That was the process of a very careful review about the types of assistance that would have gone into strengthening the mechanisms that would have allowed the state to prosecute people based on this awful law, which the church also opposed,” said Berry, according to the Tablet.

The Tablet further reported that Berry said the Obama administration made the decision to cut aid to Uganda to “make sure that U.S. taxpayer money was not used to fund legal structures that would prosecute people based on their identity.”

“The notion that aid was given on the basis of civil unions is completely false,” said Berry, according to the Tablet.

Berry’s comments come less than a month after Catholic bishops described efforts to extend aid to countries based on whether they extend marriage rights to same-sex couples as “completely unacceptable” in the final draft of a long-awaited report on the family they released after their meeting in Rome.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a group for LGBT Catholics, told the Blade on Wednesday during a telephone interview that she spoke with Berry before his visit to the Vatican.

She said she welcomes Berry’s comments.

“The Vatican needed to be held to account for perpetuating this lie that foreign aid from developed countries was being made conditional to support of same-sex marriage,” Duddy-Burke told the Blade. “It’s just not true, but this statement has crept into Vatican documents for over a year now. It does a lot of damage.”

“I would hope that they (Vatican officials) are taking note of this, coming from an important ally and not that long after the pope’s visit here,” she added, referring to Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. and Cuba in September. “Relations with the U.S. and with other countries in the Americas are clearly important to the Vatican.”

Francis later this month is scheduled to visit Uganda, Kenya and the Central African Republic.

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

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