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(Who's behind the) A vengeful protest against gay rights

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Jaevion Nelson

There is a well-established movement of Christians in America who feel they are fighting a losing battle in their home country where rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are concerned. They vehemently believe the onus is theirs to protect traditional family values and morals overseas by rescuing us from the global gay agenda.

On the face of it, their work might seem important, but their vengeance and deleterious work is perverting the advancement of rights, especially in relation to homosexuality and abortion. This is causing much anxiety among human rights campaigners worldwide.

On December 20, 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexual Bill 2009 - popularly known as 'kill-the-gays-bill', which prescribes life imprisonment for homosexuality, 'aggravated homosexuality' and same-sex marriage. Aggravated homosexuality refers to, inter alia, sex with a person below 18 years or person with disability, or an offender who is HIV positive or has previously been charged for the offence of homosexuality and related offences. The bill extends to Ugandan citizens and permanent residents who "commit the offences" abroad. Persons found guilty are subject to extradition laws. Importantly, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee had recommended that these two clauses be removed.

revised bill

The bill is somewhat lenient since the revised bill removed the death penalty for these offences. The fate of the bill becoming an actual law now resides in the hand of President Yoweri Museveni who, if he consents to the Bill, must sign by January 20, 2014.

How did the 'kill-the-gays-bill' come into being? Why was a new law proposed in a country that had already criminalised same-sex intimacy?

The bill was introduced in 2009 after the 'Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda' in Uganda where Scott Lively, who, according to Kapya Kaoma, is an American Christian right holocaust revisionist, spoke about how gays are pursuing world domination and the dangers they pose (Political Research Associates (PRA). Lively was joined by Dan Schmierer, who at the time represented the recently closed ex-gay group, Exodus. This incongruous campaign is partly guided by Lively's book Redeeming the Rainbow, which suggests "sympathy for gays" must be countered by "highlighting instances of rape and child recruitment" committed by LGBT people.


According to Kaoma, "Lively met with Ugandan lawmakers and government officials, some of whom would draft parliament's Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 [...] and the 'traditional family values' language of United States (US) anti-gay campaigners echoes through the draft legislation." Lively is now the subject of a court case filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (in New York) on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of Ugandan LGBT advocacy groups under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-citizens to file suit in the US if there is an alleged violation of international law.

In addition, US evangelical Rick Warren, who has "close ties to African religious and political leaders" and is a former colleague of Martin Ssempa, pastor of the Makerere Community Church. The relationship seemed to have plateaued when Warren spoke out against the anti-gay bill. Ssempa who is widely known for his condemnation of homosexuality, and opposition to comprehensive sexual health education, women's rights and their access to contraception, and other reproductive health services" (Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check, 2009) is "one of the key architects of the anti-gay bill and persecution of LGBT people in Uganda" (Kapya Kaoma, PRA).

Belize Penal Code

Closer to home, in Belize, numerous "American hard-line religious right" are waging war against Caleb Orozco who has filed a suit against Section 53 of the Belize Penal Code, which punishes same-sex "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" with 10 years in prison (Southern Poverty Law Centre, 2013). One such organisation is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organisation with a budget of over US$30 million and "a staff of 44 in-house lawyers and 2,200 allied lawyers" which was founded in 1994 "by 30 prominent Christian leaders in response to what they saw as "growing attacks on religious freedom." ADF has active networks in 31 countries and provides to some of the groups opposing the challenge in Belize. Extreme Prophetic Ministries of Phoenix and Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) are two US groups involved in the Belize case. They have been providing legal support Belize Action which is headed by Scott Strim, a Texas-born Christian missionary.

Very little is known about who funds Lawyers Christian Fellowship, Love March Movement and the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society who are also involved in anti-gay campaigns locally. It will be interesting to see if some of these groups in Belize will become involved in the constitutional challenge to the buggery law that will be heard before the Supreme Court later this year.

Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to