President Obama has condemned a
proposed bill before the Uganda Parliament that ups the penalties for
being gay in a country where it is already illegal, the BBC reported.
“We may disagree about gay marriage,
but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and
lesbians for who they are – whether it's here in the United States
or as Hillary [Clinton] mentioned more extremely in odious laws that
are being proposed most recently in Uganda,” Obama told the
National Prayer Breakfast.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who
spoke before Obama, also criticized the proposal.
Last year, Uganda lawmaker David Bahati
introduced the bill that includes a death penalty provision for
people who repeatedly engage in gay sex and those who are
HIV-positive. The bill also bans the “promotion of homosexuality,”
which would effectively outlaw political organizations, broadcasters
and publishers that advocate on behalf of gay rights.
Gay activists had urged Obama to avoid
the annual bipartisan gathering of religious and political leaders
because of its alleged influence in developing the Uganda bill.
The event is organized by The
Fellowship Foundation, also known as “The Family,” a conservative
Christian organization. Jeff
Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at
the Heart of American Power, a
book that exposes the political capital amassed in the U.S. by the
secretive group, recently claimed the group was behind Bahati's bill,
a charge Bahati has denied.
that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of
The Family,” Sharlet said in a recent NPR interview. “He appears
to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their
Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees an African sort of
student leadership program designed to create future leaders for
Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working
through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to
is a liar and is responsible for generating the interest in this bill
abroad,” Bahati told the Daily Monitor.
“He just wants to sell his book.”
ninety representatives called on Obama to speak out against the bill
last month, including openly gay representatives Barney Frank of
Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of
Colorado. In a letter addressed to the president, the lawmakers
asked him to “speak out publicly against this proposed legislation
to bring further attention to the issue.”
For Obama to
finally jump into the fray while addressing the people allegedly tied
to the measure shocked gay bloggers and commenters.
Obama could not have skipped this event if he wanted to – it is
simply too politically charged these days. So for him to mention
this, and condemn the law so strongly, is really fantastic,” said
one commenter at Pam's
House Blend, a popular web hangout for gay discrimination
Sudbay at AmericaBlog.com
said the inclusion of gay marriage in the speech made Obama “sound
more pro-gay marriage than he is.”