Uganda Considers Brutal Anti-Gay Legislation; GLAAD Urges Mainstream Media to Take Notice

Uganda is on the brink of passing a law that would allow the execution of gay people who are so-called “repeat offenders.” The proposed law would also call for the imprisonment of gay rights advocates and Ugandans living in other countries could even be extradited if they are thought to be gay. Under already existing laws, gay Ugandans can be sentenced to life-imprisonment.

(Full text of the proposed law can be found here)

"Homosexuality is not part of the human rights we believe in," said the bill’s author, Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati.

But the increasingly draconian proposal in Uganda is gaining international attention and seems to reveal that conservative U.S. religious leaders have had a hand in fomenting anti-gay sentiments.

Political Research Associates -- a Boston-based think tank devoted to supporting movements that build a more just and inclusive democratic society -- recently published a report titled Globalizing the Culture War: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches & Homophobia which notes that the American Evangelical Christian, Rick Warren, continues to promote an anti-gay message in Uganda. Similarly, the publication Box Turtle Bulletin has connected Warren and other Evangelicals to anti-gay Ugandan Pastor Peter Martin Sempa; Sempa and other church leaders went on record in support of the proposed legislation at the Ugandan Parliament on April 29. Pastor Sempa has also appeared in Warren’s Saddleback Church and has a long history of anti-gay activism.

Warren is being pressed to speak out against the proposed law but in a Nov. 29 Meet the Press interview, Warren said that “it is not [his] personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

The Archbiship of Canterbury, head of the global Anglican Church, has also remained silent on the proposed Ugandan law. The LGBT publication Pink News reported on Monday that private discussions between the Archbishop and the Ugandan Anglican Church are said to be underway.  Canon Gideon Byamugisha, a prominent member of Uganda's Anglican Church recently described the bill as "state-legislated genocide."

Church groups in the United States are beginning to speak out against the brutal proposal, however. The United Church of Christ Global Ministries Department sent a letter to Uganda’s government leader that “shares [the church’s] concern about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009.” The United Reform Church even went so far as to call the legislation “morally repugnant.” And Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a statement on Friday that opposes the Ugandan legislation and “call[s] on all Episcopalians to seek their own conversion toward an ability to see the image of God in the face of every neighbor, of whatever race, gender, sexual orientation, theological position, or creed.”

PepsiCo also came under fire this week after the Uganda-based independent newspaper The Daily Monitor reported that Pepsi sponsored a concert in Uganda last Saturday that featured the anti-gay performer Beenie Man. During his performance, Beenie Man is quoted as singing “In my family, we don’t have any gay person but if you’re gay, my brother that’s not my fault.” That song reportedly goes on to say that the singer wishes he could “cut the throats” of all gay men.

GLAAD contacted PepsiCo and asked for clarification about the company’s reported sponsorship of the Beenie Man concert that advocated the killing of Uganda’s gay population.

After hearing GLAAD's concerns, a PepsiCo spokesperson issued this encouraging statement:

much like you, we are appalled by the performer’s lyrics and find them repugnant.  We are not associated with him in any way.  Our bottling partner in Uganda was not aware of the performer's views and never would have sponsored the concert with this knowledge.  Moving forward, we will work closely with our bottling partners to be more vigilant about the events associated with our brands.
Much like you, we are appalled by the performer’s lyrics and find them repugnant.  We are not associated with him in any way.  Our bottling partner in Uganda was not aware of the performer's views and never would have sponsored the concert with this knowledge.  Moving forward, we will work closely with our bottling partners to be more vigilant about the events associated with our brands.

Meanwhile, Swedish officials have threatened to stop financial aid to Uganda and an Afrika article reported that both the Canadian and British Prime Ministers have urged Uganda's President Museveni to drop the proposed legislation. President Barack Obama has yet to speak out on the issue.

GLAAD urges mainstream media to shine a light on the horrific anti-gay legislation that is currently pending in Uganda and expose the potentially lethal injustices that gay and lesbian Ugandans could face simply by being who they are.

Ann Craig, GLAAD’s Director of Religion, Faith and Values, contributed to this report.