State Dept Calls Uganda Bill “A Significant Step Backwards”; Barney Frank Recommends Cutting Aid

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2011

The U.S. State Department is paying close attention to the Ugandan Parliament’s moves to bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to a vote. The following on-the-record comments from Hilary Renner, spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, were sent to BTB and other outlets in response to requests for comment:

The Department of State opposes the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which we view as manifestly inconsistent with international human rights obligations. We continue to monitor activity surrounding the proposed legislation, including the public debate.

President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, and U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier have all spoken out in opposition to the bill. These public statements underscore the U.S. government’s strong support of the rights of the LGBT community in Uganda and throughout the world.

We are not alone in our calls to stop this bill. Many from the international community have also expressed shared concern about the draft bill. And Uganda’s own Human Rights Commission issued a report in October 2010 calling the bill unconstitutional and inconsistent with international law. Many civil society groups in Uganda have advocated against this legislation, and we continue to support those efforts.

We urge Ugandan lawmakers to reject this bill and, instead, to safeguard the human rights of all Ugandans and ensure that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity provides a legal basis for discrimination or persecution.

The White House, the Department of State, and our Embassy in Kampala have been very active in speaking up, both privately and publicly, against the bill and promoting the protection of human rights for LGBT individuals in Uganda.

Public statements by President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson have urged Uganda to safeguard the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation.

We meet regularly with human rights advocates and representatives of LGBT groups to solicit their advice on how we can best support the protection of human rights in Uganda.

We continue to monitor the situation closely and are reviewing how we would respond to the passage of this legislation.

Stating our views about the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not amount to meddling in Uganda’s parliamentary affairs. Our statements are grounded in international human rights law and the obligations that it entails for all states, including Uganda and the United States.

If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda. Respect for human rights is key to Uganda’s long-term political stability and democratic development, as well as its public health and economic prosperity.

Human rights are also a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The White House, the Department of State, and our embassies and consulates overseas will continue to advocate for greater respect for the human rights of LGBT individuals, and we will continue to speak up when we are concerned about abuses, such as those that would be encouraged by or follow from the legislation proposed in Uganda.

Meanwhile, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has issued a statement condemning Uganda’s moves against the LGBT community:

“I’m disturbed by the news that Uganda is considering going ahead with a measure that denies the humanity of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

“I was pleased when the Financial Services Committee overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan way, voted in favor of my amendment urging the Secretary of the Treasury to oppose any financial assistance from multilateral development institutions to countries that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or religious beliefs. In the discussion of the amendment I offered, I specifically mentioned the deeply troubling case of Uganda, which is now considering legislation to legally deprive people of these basic human rights.”

“If the bill before the Ugandan parliament becomes law, it must be the policy of the United States government to oppose any aid to Uganda from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, or any other international financial institution of which we are a member.”

With efforts underway to identify potential budget cuts to reduce the deficit, this move should be fairly easy.

Pink News reported earlier today that British Foreign Secretary William Hauge said that the UK is also urging Uganda not to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

to questions on Twitter, Mr Hague wrote: “We oppose this bill and will continue to raise our concerns with Ugandan government. We urge Ugandan MPs to reject it.” He continued: “Our embassy is lobbying Ugandan gov & the UK initiated a formal EU demarche [diplomatic move] to the Ugandan foreign minister on the bill.”

Human Rights Watch call issued a statement, calling Uganda’s recent moves  “deeply alarming that the Ugandan parliament is again considering this appalling bill, which flies in the face of human decency and violates international human rights law.”

And finally, Warren Throckmorton has confirmed that the report from Stephen Tashobya, Chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, was completed and sent on to Parliament. A Parliament spokesperson confirmed that the report, which includes recommendations for modifications to the bill, will be made public tomorrow. Only one bill passed today, which pushes two other major pieces of legislation off until tomorrow. But the spokesperson speculated that Parliament may hold its session open late into the evening to complete its agenda

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