Thousands of miles separate me from Uganda, but little separates me in spirit from the hundreds of thousands of Ugandans who are now in fear of their lives.
For the truth is, if Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 were passed in the US or Canada today, I would be awaiting death at this moment. I am what the proposed bill calls a “serial offender.” I would not be the only one. Every practicing homosexual in the nation would face the same fate. Every friend and family member who tried to protect us would risk imprisonment or execution. Anyone defending our right to live could be tried for promoting homosexuality, and could incur the same punishment.
At stake are neither abstract moral principles, nor simply human freedom, but actual human lives. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 is effectively a mandate for the mass execution of gays and lesbians, and their supporters.
The last few months have seen a widespread apologetic effort to distract from the true implications of the proposed legislation. One common claim is that the death penalty has been dropped from the bill. It is true that Uganda’s Minister of Integrity and Ethics was reported as saying this in December, 2009, but no further evidence has been forthcoming. In January, President Yoweri Museveni denied his government had any responsibility for the contents of the bill. To this day, only one draft remains: the original draft, recommending the death penalty. Nothing has changed.
A second claim is that the laws will exist only to protect the vulnerable – victims of gay rape, for example, especially the “boy child.” This too is alien to the actual content of the bill. While it does address victimization of children, it also makes it clear that serial offenders will be punished with death. Not only do serial offenses include physical acts – including simply “touching” with intent to commit a homosexual act – it also includes those guilty of “related offenses,” such as “promoting” homosexuality, or in the case of someone in authority, failing to report a homosexual within 24 hours.
Everyone of conscience should be open in opposing these brutal laws. Thankfully, the western world has many such people of conscience. They include both the religious and the non-religious, homosexual and heterosexual, conservative and liberal. They recognize this is a basic matter of social justice.
How sad, then –infuriating! – that a writer in the mainstream evangelical publication Christianity Today this month has offered such a lukewarm response to the impending legislation, arguing that “both silence and open condemnation end up violating important missional and human-rights principles.”
What possible human-rights principle is violated by speaking out openly to condemn this brutal assault on human lives? This week, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Church did not hesitate in describing the bill as “repugnant.” In December, evangelical pastor Rick Warren condemned it as “unjust, extreme and unchristian.” Dr Warren Throckmorton, a Christian psychology professor who holds to traditional sexual morality, has spearheaded the movement among Christians to denounce the threat to gays in Uganda.
Frankly, as a gay man, I am scared when I witness the reluctance of some intelligent, civilized, Christian people to speak out against this potential atrocity. Whether they explicitly affirm the proposed Ugandan legislation or simply shut their mouths and let it pass silently, my only thought is: Who will come to my defense when they come for me?
It is not time to waver in speaking out. This is an issue that transcends partisan lines. Regardless of personal politics, religion or sexuality, unequivocal condemnation of Uganda’s ugly, violent and fundamentally inhumane Anti-Homosexuality Bill is the only proper response.