January 28th, 2010
A recent post by Karen Schuberg on CNSNews.com, which claims to have caught Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in an inconsistency over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, purposely twists the bill’s plain English to achieve that conclusion. Schuberg’s column leads off this way:
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said that if a person purposely tries to spread sickness, such as the H1N1 flu or a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the action should be punished.
But Baldwin did not say what specific punishment was warranted, particularly in the country of Uganda, which currently is considering legislation that would impose the death penalty on any HIV-positive person who willfully and knowingly engages in homosexual relations. [Emphasis mine]
Willfully and knowingly? Where did Schuberg get that? She certainly didn’t get it from the proposed bill itself, which actually says this:
3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the
(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;
(b) offender is a person living with HIV;
(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;
(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;
(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;
(f) offender is a serial offender, or
(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,
(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.
(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.
Pay careful attention to what the bill does not say. It does not say that the person who is living with HIV intends to infect others. Many people are in consensual serodiscordant relationships. They are in these relationships with full knowledge that their partner is HIV-positive and take cautions appropriately. But even these consensual relationships would result in the death penalty for the HIV+ partner.
And notice something else. If someone is HIV-positive and doesn’t know it, he, too, could be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” based solely on a prosecutor’s suspicion. That would compel the person to undergo an HIV test to determine his eligibility for the death sentence. And this test could very well be that individual’s first opportunity to learn he is HIV-positive. In civilized societies where Anti-Retroviral medicines are available, learning that one is HIV-positive is no longer a death sentence as it used to be before 1995. But in Uganda, it will revert back to being a literal death sentence under the law.
In fact, there is absolutely nothing in the proposed statute that requires the individual “willfully and knowingly” enter into a relationship to intentionally infect others. There is no such burden of proof required. Under this proposal, any consensual serodiscordant relationship — including mine — will open the door to the death penalty.
But the mere suggestion that serodiscordant couples — gay and straight, by the way! Where’s the death penalty against the straight HIV+ person? — can enter into loving, responsible relationships is completely outside of Karen Schulberg’s twisted imagination. That much is is obvious by her line of questioning in the article. She consistently frames it as given assumption that all HIV-positive people are irresponsible, duplicitous and wanton murderers.
One has to wonder at the real motivation of Schuberg and others like her who purposely distort the plain and simple meaning of the bill. Does she really think the bill’s provisions are justified? And since I think we all know the answer, why won’t she just come out and say it?
Update: To clarify, I should point out that not only did Schuberg butcher the actual text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, she also willfully ignored Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s attempt to correct her. Baldwin made a very clear distinction between intentionally spreading diseases and entering into consensual relationships. Baldwin got the distinction exactly right. But while Schuberg included Baldwin’s quotes in full, she nevertheless wrote the entire column as if such a distinction neither existed nor mattered.
That’s because to Schuberg, it obviously doesn’t matter. As far as she is concerned, HIV-positive gay people are lying, sneaking killers. They have no morals, no sense of responsibility, and are incapable of entering into positive, loving, consensual, and fully informed relationships — none of these factors are addressed by the death penalty provisions. But HIV-positive straight people — AIDS is predominately a heterosexual disease in Africa, yet straight people aren’t being threatened with the gallows — I guess they are all morally upright and trustworthy. That’s Schuberg’s thesis. Otherwise, why would she go through such lengths to write what is plainly not true for something that has life-and-death consequences for gay people?
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