VIDEO: As dozens are arrested in Nigeria, Sec. Kerry speaks out against dangerous new law

News that Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the "Same Sex Prohibition Bill," also known as the "Jail the Gays Bill" broke yesterday, and the US State Department has now spoken out against the bill as a violation of Nigerian people's basic rights.

As a consequence of the new law

  • Gay married couples
  • Anyone forming organizations, societies, or clubs that support LGBT equality
  • Openly gay people, whether or not they are involved in intimate relationships
  • Anyone who knows someone who is gay and doesn't report them to the authorities
  • Anyone involved in a gay couples' wedding ceremony, including guests
  • And "any person who directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships"

…can face between 5 and 14 years in prison, depending on the "crime" being committed.

Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights reported today that 38 arrests have already been made under the new law and have a list of 130 more gay men to be arrested.

Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement yesterday that he is "deeply concerned" about this new law.

"Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians. Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution. People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love. We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights."

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf echoed these sentiments at a press conference yesterday, but added, "It may make some work in the country harder to do, but we clearly have a relationship there that’s an important one, and we’ll continue working together."

Reaffirming commitment to international LGBT equality at large, she said, “We’ve talked about it elsewhere — whether it’s Russia, here or elsewhere — that we believe that LGBT rights are human rights, there’s no place for discrimination anywhere, such as this."

While the US State Department as well as the UK government have criticized Nigeria's anti-gay and anti-ally law, several notorious anti-LGBT extremists have expressed their approval. Right Wing Watch named radio host Janet Mefferd, the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber, MassResistance, and Family Watch International's Sharon Slater as among those in favor of the draconian law.

You can watch the video or read the transcript of Deputy Spokesperson Harf responding to the Washington Blade's Chris Johnson, and his questions about sanctions, international anti-gay trends, and more here:

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