UPDATE: Uganda Reportedly Drops Death Penalty, Life Imprisonment from Anti-Gay Legislation
Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity James Nsaba Buturo announced on Wednesday that proposed anti-gay legislation in the country will no longer call for the execution or life-imprisonment of gay men.
Buturo told Bloomberg that the legislation will instead prescribe a more “refined set of punishments,” though what exactly that entails is unclear. Buturo also alluded to so-called ‘reparative therapy’ which the government will promote to “attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation.”
However, The American Psychological Association denounced the “treatment” of homosexuality in a 2009 report and noted that the APA “concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation” and that “distress and depression were exacerbated” in some individuals who undergo so-called ‘reparative therapy’. Numerous other medical, psychiatric, and psychological organizations have also condemned the practice.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recently lambasted author and so-called ‘ex-gay’ advocate Richard Cohen on her program The Rachel Maddow Show after it came to light that Cohen’s book Coming Out Straight has been used to justify Uganda’s anti-gay legislative efforts:
Your teaching and your activism have been used for a political purpose which is to promote this bill... You have told them, particularly in your book, Coming Out Straight, which I understood you donated multiple copies of to this organization that’s promoting this bill. You’re telling them exactly what they need to hear in order to justify the ‘kill the gays’ bill.
The American Evangelical Christian minister Rick Warren had also been sharply criticized recently for his reported link to anti-gay Ugandan legislators. Warren had remained silent on the issue, but finally released a video statement on Thursday in which he addresses Ugandan pastors and states that he “completely oppose[s] and vigorously condemn[s] the bill.” Warren goes on to say the “terrible bill” is “unjust, it’s extreme, and it’s un-Christian.”
But The Huffington Post published an article on Friday that exposed the efforts by some conservative Christian leaders, including Warren, to advance anti-LGBT sentiments throughout Africa and specifically in “more authoritarian countries,” like Uganda:
[Rick] Warren is especially influential on the continent, enjoying close ties to African religious and political leaders. They quote him to justify discrimination against LGBT people, and to support their challenge to U.S. mainline Protestants liberalizing their policies around gay ordination. "Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right," Warren said during a March-April 2008 visit with African religious and political leaders in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. That quote has reverberated ever since.
It is important to note, however, that other faith leaders have taken a strong stand against the Ugandan legislation. For example, hundreds of faith leaders signed onto a letter from the Unitarian Universalist United Nations office that urged Uganda Minister of Ethics and Integrity Buturo to oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 and end discrimination directed toward LGBT people. Also, the group Faith In Public Life organized prominent Catholic and Protestant leaders to sign a statement that condemned the vicious legislation in Uganda:
Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus' commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda…
Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God's children worthy of respect and love. Yet we are painfully aware that in our country gays and lesbians still face hostility and violence. We recognize that such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good and defies the teachings of our Lord -- wherever it occurs.
GLAAD continues to urge 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.
Updates will be provided on GLAADblog.org as they become available.