Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today signed an archaic anti-gay bill into law. The bill, which once even included the death penalty, calls for gay Ugandans or anyone “promoting” homosexuality to be jailed – potentially for life. Museveni made the decision to sign the bill after consulting with a panel of “medical experts.” The co-chair of that panel has publicly claimed that being gay “is just deviant behavior. It can be learned, and it can be unlearned.” HRC Director of Global Engagement Ty Cobb made the following statement:
“President Museveni sent a clear message today that bigotry and intolerance – which is now further codified into statute in Uganda – trump the rights of LGBT Ugandans. Let there be no room for doubt, this bill could destroy lives and tear families apart. We call on Secretary of State John Kerry to temporarily recall the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda in order to strengthen our nation’s engagement on this issue. A temporary recall will send one of the clearest signals possible that the United States will not tolerate such abuses to any person’s human rights.
We condemn the work of anti-LGBT Americans who pressed for the passage of this law. While many now distance themselves from passage of this bill, their work in Uganda helped bolster support and create space for enactment of the legislation. They could soon have blood on their hands.”
Chief among the American extremists whipping up the hatred fueling this legislation are Scott Lively and the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer. Scott Lively’s 2009 visit to Uganda is currently the subject of a lawsuit in Massachusetts in which he stands accused of committing crimes against humanity for inspiring hatred and violence towards gay people. In addition to his efforts in Uganda, Lively also claims to be one of the masterminds behind Russia’s brutal crackdowns on the civil rights of LGBT people. Lively’s fringe views, which include blaming the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide on gay people, are rejected by reasonably thinking Americans.
Two months ago, Fischer tweeted in support of the Ugandan bill and called for making “homosexuality contrary to public policy. It can be done.” Fischer has even defended Scott Lively’s direct involvement in Uganda, insisting he was simply standing up for “natural marriage.”
The idea that being gay is “deviant” and something which can be “unlearned” is not only harmful, but scientifically inaccurate. While many extremist organizations continue to promote the idea that someone can change their sexual orientation, the United States’ leading medical organizations have spoken out against such practices precisely because of their inherent harm. Those organizations include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.