The international pressure continues to mount on Uganda over the odious Anti-Homosexuality "Kill the Gays" Bill.
The US State Department is responding to a letter by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) about the Bill currently in the Ugandan Parliament by saying it is "a serious affront to internationally accepted human rights standards." From HRC Backstory:
Senator Wyden's letter called for a review of Uganda's preferred trade status under 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 AGOA, a country must not be engaged in "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." In its letter, the State Department said that it will work closely with Congress and other stakeholders during its yearly review of AGOA eligibility.
But the State Department isn't stopping there when it comes to international LGBT rights. That, and more Uganda News about the Pope's silence on the Bill, after the jump...
Also in the response to Senator Wyden was the State Department's expansion on monitoring and engaging in LGBT rights in Africa:
The letter also stated that the State Department has asked all of its embassies in Africa to report on host country laws and pending legislation that criminalizes homosexuality. Moreover, it stated that the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has established a task force on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues to strategize a U.S. response to LBGT issues worldwide.
The task force on LGBT rights is a welcomed step from the State Department and will hopefully mark a new level of engagement in Human Rights violationas against LGBT people not only in Africa but in countries like Iraq and Iran as well, where the US has largely ignored the persecution and execution of LGBT people.
More Uganda "Kill the Gays" News: Personal Stories and Catholic Silence
Also in Uganda News, Alwin McEwen pointed out a great Times Magazine article on the "Kill the Gays" Bill over at Pam's House Blend. It features the personal story of lesbians living in Uganda and struggling to survive while finding love in a country so hostile to them.
Alwin also points out the sad, but not surprising, news of the Pope and Catholic Church's deafening silence on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Pope Benedict met with Uganda's Catholic hierarchy at the Vatican last week to delivered a speech, yet said nothing about the anti-gay bill. The reasons given?
There are several reasons why Benedict may not have mentioned the anti-gay bill -- or rather the broader issue of human rights and protections for homosexuals and love of the sinner, since for diplomatic reasons the pope would not target a specific piece of legislation. One is that he may not be aware of the legislation or the controversy. Another is that his aides know that if he raised the issue it would become the lead of every story. There is also concern that having religious leaders outside Uganda speak out against the popular bill would backfire and ensure its passage.
Moreover, the bishops themselves may have asked the Vatican to refrain from addressing the issue (though that has not always stopped the pope from speaking his mind) since they are in the tricky position of trying to maintain the church's position in Uganda in the face of serious challenges from conservative evangelicals and Pentecostals, as well as Muslims, who are far more severe in their approach to homosexuals than the Catholic Church is.
There is no way the Pope doesn't know about the Bill. None. The excuse of the "great infallible voice" not speaking out in a country he has great influence for fear of it backfiring and helping to pass the bill is a red herring as well. And heaven forbid that Papa Ratzi speak out against the mass murder of gays and have that become headlines!
Yet the most troubling, and perhaps the most honest, is that the Catholic Church doesn't want to been seen as "soft" on exterminating gays, which it views as a unpopular stance in Uganda. In the popularity contest of religions in Uganda, they have to keep up their gay-hating credibility so they don't get outdone by those pesky evangelicals.
That's some "moral" authority. Ugh.