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Sen. Wyden Questions Uganda’s Preferred Trade Status & House LGBT Equality Caucus Speaks Out

Uganda Embassy Protest 038U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has called for a review of Uganda’s preferred trade status as a result of the anti-LGBT bill pending in the Ugandan Parliament that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death.  Sen. Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, said in a press release that passage of the anti-LGBT bill in Uganda would be a violation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which authorizes duty-free importation of certain goods from preferred status countries.  As a condition of receiving preferred status under the AGOA, a country must not be engaged in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”  Senator Wyden argues that passage of the anti-LGBT bill by the Ugandan Parliament would violate this condition and necessitate immediate revocation of all benefits Uganda receives under the AGOA. Today, Senator Wyden sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to request that they “communicate immediately to the Ugandan government, and President Yoweri Museveni directly, that Uganda’s beneficiary status under AGOA will be revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted.”  This request by Senator Wyden comes on the heels of a December statement by Secretary Clinton that framed LGBT rights under the broad umbrella of international human rights.   In his press release, Senator Wyden also announced his intent “to amend U.S. trade laws to preclude countries that fail to adequately respect sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights from benefitting from any U.S. trade preference scheme.”  Such legislation is a welcomed signal that LGBT human rights violations will not be overlooked by the U.S. government. In addition to this news, the LGBT Equality Caucus, which is co-chaired by Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Barney Frank, D-Mass. and Jared Polis, D-Colo., is currently circulating two Congressional sign-on letters in the U.S. House of Representatives.  One letter asks President Obama to express the gravity of the situation in Uganda and asks him to speak out publicly against the proposed legislation.  The other letter asks President Museveni of Uganda to use every means possible to convey to leaders in Parliament that the appalling bill is reckless in both intent and possible impact, and should be withdrawn immediately.  HRC has launched an action alert to encourage our members to contact their Representative to join these sign-on letters.  Within 24 hours of notifying our membership of these LGBT Equality Caucus letters, we have already seen over 25,000 letters sent by our members to their elected representatives. It is unlikely that we will see much movement on the anti-LGBT bill in Uganda until the Ugandan Parliament returns from recess in mid-February.

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