Wednesday, November 14, 2012
A Christmas Present for Ugandans
I'm sure my readers are aware that the US re-elected President Obama to serve another 4 years. I'm obviously pleased with this outcome but there were some other results that I'd like to focus on. Voters in Maine and Maryland approved legislation to allow same-sex marriages in those states! This is historical as these are the first states to legalize gay marriage by popular vote. I also consider it a sign that the tide has definitely changed and we are headed in the right direction here in the United States when it comes to LGBT rights.
Meanwhile, half-way across the planet we have countries where simply being homosexual is illegal and could land you in jail. In the majority of countries in Africa being gay is illegal. The leaders in these countries state that there are cultural and religious reasons for this discrimination.
One of these countries, Uganda, has one of the strictest pieces of legislation already in place and is looking to pass another law by the end of the year. This bill was previously referred to as the 'Kill the Gays' law because the highest penalty for being homosexual was death. Because of international outcry, this language has been removed but the current version requires teachers, doctors and other professionals to report gay people to the authorities or be arrested themselves and the penalty for being gay can be life imprisonment for repeat offenders.
Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament says that a group of clerics asked her to pass the legislation as a Christmas present and that Ugandans are "demanding it". She says there is a serious threat posed by homosexuals to Uganda's children.
I'm sorry but what?!? Gay and lesbian people aren't a threat to children! These people who are demanding this sort of legislation in Uganda are operating from a position of ignorance!
I delved deeper into the situation. First I noticed mention of alleged wealthy homosexuals who were supposedly recruiting young children into a gay lifestyle. Seriously? Who are they? Where is this happening? Citation needed. Show me the evidence and I will believe this one. Otherwise? Sounds like a crock of bull to me. (and to Rachel Maddow as well as others, I'm sure.)
See, one of the first things that people do when they are operating from a position of fear and ignorance is to bring up concern for children. As the article I referenced points out, this is nothing new. In this particular case, the protection of children from homosexuals is mentioned. This thinking is flawed and comes from a distrust and dislike of gay people not from facts.
I then realized that one of the articles I read mentioned anti-gay activists holding signs that say that homosexuality is "an abomination." Now where have I heard that before? Ah, yes. The bible. Leviticus 18:22 to be specific.
So, not only are people making claims that are not based in fact but they are justifying their claims with their religious beliefs. Brilliant. Ignorance backed up by superstitious nonsense. The perfect storm, if you will.
Now, I am outraged by this situation and you should be too - especially the American people reading this. Why? Because religious organizations based in the US are funding and supporting this ignorant legislation!
David Bahati, who proposed the legislation in Uganda, is a member of The Family, an Evangelical Christian political organization based in the United States. (according to author Jeff Sharlet) The Family, also known as The Fellowship, is the group that holds the National Prayer Breakfast that our US Presidents attend almost every year. It is not clear how influential this group really is but it is clear that they do not respect the idea of the separation of church and state here in the US or in Uganda.. Uganda's constitution guarantees freedom of religion and states no official state religion so this implies that their founders, too, believed in a secular government.
Then there is the Family Research Council. When Congress wanted to pass a resolution denouncing Uganda's plan to execute homosexuals (back when capital punishment was still on the table), the FRC was lobbying members of Congress to kill the resolution. Did they succeed? Well, it passed in the Senate but was given to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House. It's not seen the light of day since. Now, granted, the Ugandan government did revise their legislation to remove the death penalty but this doesn't change the fact that members of the US Congress were unable or unwilling to pass a resolution denouncing killing people because they were gay. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why we should be alarmed!
While we here in the US are making strides in the fight for civil rights of LGBT individuals, we have groups who are working both here and abroad to prevent this move forward and they are using religion to justify their actions! Think of that next time you chow down on waffle fries at your local Chik-fil-a. Why? Because the Family Research Council is one of the groups that the company donates money to through their WinShape Foundation.
Image courtesy of Benson Kua and found here