It has been extremely difficult to follow the serpentine path of Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (aka “Kill the Gays” legislation). The bill was first introduced in 2009 and has been on-again, off-again more than Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson.
However, by the time you read this column, it very well may have passed, turning the country’s LGBT population into hunted fugitives whose very lives are on the line. As early as last month, it appeared that the bill was stalled in parliament. But local political violence has the government looking for scapegoats to divert attention from its corruption.
There isn’t much we can do in America to influence Uganda’s political skirmishes any more than they can referee a fight between Barack Obama and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). But America and Europe have enormous leverage because they give Uganda large amounts of aid. In my view, we should be doing everything in our power to use the purse strings to end the persecution.
This fight is not just about anti-gay cruelty and oppression in Uganda. The key reason to become involved in this battle is because the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has its origins in the United States of America. Key evangelical preachers, politicians, “ex-gay” activists, and organizations such as Rick Warren, Rev. Lou Engle, Sen. James Inhofe, and The Family (aka The Fellowship Foundation) have exported their anti-gay fervor to Uganda and several other African nations. In essence, they are using Uganda to fight a proxy war against homosexuality. Their goals are:
1) Pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda
2) Use this law as a model for copycat legislation in other African nations
3) Have these laws serve as examples to the West – and eventually export them back to Europe and the United States when conditions are ripe
4) Make the case that governments have the right to arbitrarily punish and execute LGBT people with impunity because they have no right to protection from discrimination
If we do not defeat this measure in Kampala today, it will cost the LGBT movement enormously in terms of effort and financial resources tomorrow. Unfortunately, it may be too late, as our movement has delayed and dithered while this threat intensified. If Ugandans are eventually hunted down, rounded up, jailed and executed, our collective failure should bring us great shame, and yes, blame. Fingers deserve to be pointed or we will never learn from our mistakes.
Exactly who in our movement was running the show and trying to prevent this bill from passing? How did they create such a paltry campaign that it remained essentially off the radar? After all, one needs both a behind-the-scenes strategy and a public presence to create effective pressure campaigns. But our efforts to draw attention to this monstrosity were episodic and half-hearted. It’s hard to believe, but for the daily status of the bill, our community depended on a part-time blogger, Jim Burroway, and a Christian therapist, Warren Throckmorton. Is this really the best we could do – two dedicated people who were forced to heroically gather information for free on lunch breaks?
What should we have done? We could have run a strategic campaign to let Uganda’s leaders know that there would be a heavy price to pay for passing this bill:
• Isolate: A campaign should have articulated the view that if the bill passed, Uganda would become a pariah state and bill sponsors would be viewed as genocidal outlaws deserving of prosecution for crimes against humanity
• Punish: A campaign should have stressed that Uganda would be subject to harsh international sanctions and lose foreign aid from Western governments
• Shame: American evangelicals are behind much of the anti-gay hysteria in Africa. A bright spotlight should have been consistently shined on those involved, exposing their role
• Continental Divide: As we shamed the Americans into publicly backing away from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, this would have likely caused a rift with their Ugandan counterparts, reducing the chances of this bill passing
• Reshape the Narrative: Ugandan sponsors of the bill falsely claim that homosexuality is un-African and that they are protecting the purity of African values from Western taint. We should have accurately pointed out that the bill’s sponsors are puppets of American religious special interest groups who are intent on stealing the country and possibly appropriating its oil.
The LGBT communities of North America and Europe were all that stood in the way of this human rights catastrophe becoming a grotesque reality that will negatively impact gay people worldwide. Yet, even though we had two years to avert this nightmare, we collectively failed to take action.
None of us should sleep well if the bill passes.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”