Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” Is Back

Nikki Serapio

Crimes like the January murder of Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato underscore the additional danger that gay Ugandans face if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passes.

Cross-posted from Amplify Your Voice, the online publication of Advocates for Youth.

According to Ugandan news media, David Bahati’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” is alive and well again.

UGPulse reports that the bill is set to be debated soon by the Uganda Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. This matches a notice published in the government-owned newspaper New Vision, which earlier this month indicated that Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi “has summoned MPs to report to the House [in March]” to discuss measures including “the Parliamentary Pensions Amendments Bill of 2010, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the Retirements Benefits Authority Bill.”

What’s at stake here? Lest we forget, Human Rights First reminds us that

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Uganda is one of 83 countries where homosexuality is criminalized. If the proposed [Anti-Homosexuality] bill were to pass, it would become the eighth country where it is punishable by death.

More details about the Uganda measure are available at www.standforuganda.com.

This is an important time for LGBT rights in Uganda. On March 15, Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s most strident supporters, resigned his post after losing a primary election and then illegally participating as an independent candidate in Uganda’s recent national election. A December 2009 U.S. State Department diplomatic cable called Buturo one of the “key players ushering in a new era of intolerance in the region.” Which is an assessment that makes complete sense, given the parting words and final conspiracy theory accusations that Buturo shared with Ugandan media last week:

“At the United Nations there are attempts by some nations to impose homosexuality on the rest of us…We have learned that they want to smuggle in provisions on homosexuality. Homosexuals can forget about human rights. Uganda will not be forced to legalise practices that are illegal, unnatural and abnormal.”

Meanwhile, here in the United States, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts has introduced a measure that “would have the effect of pressuring countries which persecute people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or religious belief.” The amendment reads:

“The Committee urges Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights, for example, the denial of freedom of religion, including the right to choose one’s own religion, and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Frank’s measure, which passed the House Financial Services Committee with near-unanimous support, is in line with a previous proposal from Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, which called for using targeted economic sticks in order to fight human rights abuses in Africa.

The fact that certain members of the Ugandan Parliament are insisting on moving forward Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill is deeply concerning, given the pressure that President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other U.S. officials have put on Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to reject and help void this measure. Crimes like the January murder of Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato underscore the additional danger that gay Ugandans face if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passes.

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Lawsuit: Indiana GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill Unconstitutional

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Republican-backed law contains numerous anti-choice measures, including forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and a ban on fetal tissue donation.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to block an Indiana anti-abortion law advocates argue places doctors at risk of criminal prosecution and unconstitutionally burdens patients’ abortion rights.

The Republican-backed HB 1337 contains numerous anti-choice measures, including forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and a ban on fetal tissue donation.

The sweeping law prevents doctors from providing abortion care if the doctor knows that the person is seeking the procedure because of the “race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus.” The law also bans abortion care if the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other disability.

The law’s race, gender, and disability ban imposes an undue burden on a pregnant person’s right to choose an abortion “because it bars that choice under certain circumstances, even if the pregnancy is in its early stages and the fetus is not viable,” according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that mandating abortion clinic employees inform pregnant people that they cannot terminate a pregnancy on those grounds as part of the so-called informed consent process is “compelled speech that violates the rights of both the clinic and its employees and patients.”

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There is no evidence that sex-selection abortions are widespread in the United States. Proponents of these anti-choice measures justify the policy by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant people of color.

The ACLU, the ACLU of Indiana, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed the lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and Dr. Marshall Levine, who is contracted by Planned Parenthood to perform abortions, along with Shauna Sidhom, a nurse practitioner who also works for Planned Parenthood.

Signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence (R) on March 24 and slated to take effect on July 1, the abortion restrictions are part of a nationwide effort to shut down clinics and prevent patients who need an abortion from accessing care, according to advocates.

“While the Indiana law pays lip service to equality, it does nothing to address the very real inequities faced by people of color, women, and individuals with disabilities in our communities,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in an emailed statement. “If the politicians behind this law were serious about promoting equality, they would ensure that everyone has access to quality education, healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities. Instead, they have chosen only to interfere with a woman’s ability to make a personal decision in the way she thinks is best for herself and her family.”

Attorneys from the State of Indiana have not yet replied to the complaint.

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Lawsuit: North Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Is Unconstitutional

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The GOP-backed law discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people, advocates charge.

Equality advocates filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging North Carolina’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ law, HB 2, arguing the measure violates the U.S. Constitution.

HB 2 is a law that prohibits local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances. It requires that individuals use the restrooms in public schools or government agency buildings designated for the gender on their birth certificate, among other provisions.

Advocates, including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Equality North Carolina, filed the lawsuit on behalf of two transgender North Carolinians, Joaquín Carcaño, a University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill employee, and Payton McGarry, a UNC at Greensboro student, as well as Angela Gilmore, a North Carolina Central University law professor.

The lawsuit names as defendants North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), Attorney General Roy Cooper, and the University of North Carolina.

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The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment. The GOP-backed law discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people, advocates charge.

The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex, advocates claim.

“We’re challenging this extreme and discriminatory measure in order to ensure that everyone who lives in and visits North Carolina is protected under the law,” Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. “This cruel, insulting, and unconstitutional law is an attack on fairness in employment, education, and local governance that encourages discrimination against thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home, and particularly targets transgender men and women. HB 2 aims to override local school board policies, local public accommodations laws, and more.”

North Carolina Republican legislators convened a special session March 23 with the purpose of passing HB 2. The law is a response to a Charlotte ordinance which would have protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in public accommodations and housing.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the advocacy group Equality NC, told WRAL this month that more than 200 cities nationwide have passed similar ordinances designed to protect LGBTQ people.

“HB 2 is hurtful and demeaning. I just want to go to work and live my life. This law puts me in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I clearly don’t belong or breaking the law,” plaintiff Carcaño said in a statement. “But this is about more than bathrooms, this is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina.”

The North Carolina lawsuit comes as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) vetoed a similar anti-LGBTQ measure in his state. Georgia Republicans passed HB 757 in direct response to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.