Climber Claims Uganda Peak for LGBT Equality
Neal Gottlieb, the founding twin of Three Twins Ice Cream, has taken the world by surprise by raising the rainbow flag atop the tallest peak in Uganda during a six-day climb to the summit.
But his symbolic gesture did not dissuade Uganda lawmakers from introducing more anti-gay proposals.
Gottlieb, a 37-year-old straight man who lives in Sausalito, traveled to Uganda April 7-22 to climb the Rwenzori Mountains, also known as the Mountains of the Moon, which is the only equatorial peak and divides the Congo and Uganda.
What was different about this trip is that this is the first time Gottlieb, and by extension his popular organic ice cream company, has ventured into global LGBT politics.
On April 23, Gottlieb posted a photo of himself atop the Margherita Peak standing next to his rainbow flag along with an open letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on his Facebook page announcing what he did during his vacation.
The Petaluma-based company usually is more festive, celebrating the LGBT community during San Francisco Pride at its scoop shops with "Going Gay as a $3 Bill," selling $3 pints of fun gay-inspired flavors such as "Harvey Milk and Cookies," "Dorothy’s Ruby Slipper," "Bear Bait," and "Two Tops Don’t Make a Bottom."
The Bay Area Reporter spoke with Gottlieb during a phone interview from Wisconsin, where he is opening a new factory.
Originally, the trip was just an interesting challenge to climb the only equatorial peak in Africa and an excuse to return to the continent, "Which I love very dearly," he said.
Gottlieb served in the Peace Corps in North Africa and has traveled through Kenya and Tanzania.
"I thought this climb would be great," said Gottlieb, a part-time mountain climber who has scaled Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro and a 20,000-foot mountain in Nepal prior to his recent climb of Mount Stanley’s 16,753-foot Margherita Peak.
Gottlieb had purchased his plane tickets to Uganda several weeks before Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law February 24, he said.
The law broadens the criminalization of same-sex relations, and includes stiff penalties, including life imprisonment.