Tragic news out of the central African nation of Uganda today, where lawmakers passed the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The bill strengthens the country's laws banning gay sex and makes "repeat offenses" punishable by life imprisonment. It also contained a clause making it a crime not to report gay people, although there are conflicting reports as to whether or not this provision has been dropped. The bill also bans the "promotion" of homosexuality.
The measure was first introduced in 2009 by the infamous David Bahati, MP, and inspired by U.S. evangelicals Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Lee Brundidge. It originally made certain homosexuality-related "offenses" punishable by death and earned it the infamous "kill-the-gays" moniker. The death penalty provision has been dropped from the final text of the bill because it was deemed too controversial.
Still, Bahati was triumphant after the vote, telling AFP:
"This is victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil."
"Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks."
As activist Melanie Nathan notes, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga promised last year to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a "Christmas gift" to the Ugandan people, who she claimed were demanding it. It now appears that Kadaga has succeeded in delivering her Christmas gift, just one year later than she promised.
The bill now goes to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Pope Benedict XVI blessed Speaker Kadaga last year at the Vatican shortly after she delivered those infamous remarks. It remains to be seen whether Pope Francis will remain silent or speak out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Dr. Frank Mugisha, an LGBT advocate who's been at the forefront of the opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, tweeted after the vote: "I am officially illegal."
Gay Star News reports that Ugandan LGBTs fear that a "hunt" will ensue:
Ugandan LGBTI people are said to be 'panicked' and 'afraid for their lives'. It has already been predicted it will lead to more deaths in the LGBTI community...
Speaking to Gay Star News, Mugisha said: 'I am just shocked. I don't know what to do.
'I didn't expect it to come today. I thought there was still more time. I'm really shocked. All of our allies were caught unaware. All of us were unaware.
'We are going to oppose the bill because it is very unconstitutional. We will do everything we can to oppose it.
'We need the international community to draw attention to the bill being passed. We need a lot of attention right now. I am very disappointed. All of my colleagues are panicking. They believe there is going to be a hunt. They think it is already law. And they believe they will die.
'For me, I am very strong. I am very sure we can find a solution and challenge it in any way possible.'
According to the BBC, the Ugandan government passed the bill despite knowing full well that it will cause an international outcry and potentially jeopardize critical foreign aid payments.
Indeed, the international community has strongly and repeatedly condemned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill; President Obama notably denounced the law as "odious" in 2010.
Ugandan lawmakers reportedly also passed an Anti-Pornography Bill today banning miniskirts and "sexually suggestive material such as some music videos."
The original 2009 text of the bill is below.
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 by JohnMBecker