Days After Repeal of Anti-Gay Law, Uganda's President Meets Obamas
President Barack Obama and his first Lady Michelle Obama have set LGBT activists in an uproar after meeting with Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni just days after the repeal of the draconian anti-gay law.
"The hardest part for me is I truly love this President. I thought he was one of our greatest. I am so disappointed I can barely find the words to express my anger and sadness," U.S. activist Melanie Nathan told Gay Star News. "I feel as if my best friend just stabbed me in the back. Some LGBT community members are still in hiding -- unable to work, struggling to survive -- and you welcome him into OUR White House. I am angry and as a lesbian American I feel betrayed! There is no justification for this whatsoever. You have lost my support!"
Gay Star News reports the White House held a dinner on August 5 with leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to discuss the U.S. strengthening their ties with African nations. During that visit, the Obamas took a photo with Museveni, the leader who believes that homosexuality is an "abomination" and who originally proposed legislation that mandated that all gays be killed.
The legislation was eventually scaled back, but only slightly, making it illegal for gays to organize, making it a crime for people not to report gays, and imposing harsh penalties for gay sex, such as a 14-year jail term or life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality."
Museveni signed the legislation into law on December 20, 2013, at which point Obama said that it was a direct assault to fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.
"That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality," said Obama in a written statement at the time. "Enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda."
But at the end of July 2014, the Constitutional Court in Uganda ruled that the speaker of parliament had acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure, despite multiple objections that not enough MPs were in attendance.
"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum," the court said in its ruling. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally."
Ten petitioners had brought the challenge to the law, saying it violated the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
"We welcome this ruling and Uganda's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community can celebrate a small victory against oppression," said Sexual Minorities Uganda director Frank Mugisha.
The ruling, which came a week before the landmark U.S.-Africa summit, allows Museveni to blame others for its defeat, while preserving Western forces like the U.S., who withdrew aid, but were otherwise reluctant to punish an ally, with anti-gay preacher Martin Ssempa saying, There are efforts... to drum up a legal precedent to try to show [Washington] that, 'Hey, we are not that bad on homosexuality.'"
Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.