CHICAGO, IL -- The cold was absolutely miserable tonight and the action was initiated just a few days ago despite the nasty weather forecast, but about 20 people still came out on International Human Rights Day to express their solidarity with Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans (LGBT) people facing that country's proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill."
As originally proposed, the Ugandan bill would impose the death penalty for some homosexual acts, make speaking out in favor of gay rights an imprisonable offence, and require imprisonment of those who didn't inform on their gay friends, neighbors and relatives.
At 8 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 C) and -20 F wind chill (-29 C), people gathered despite the cancellation of many other public activities in the city this evening. Lacking an official Ugandan consulate in the city, protesters instead held their action outside of the city's LGBT community center.
One of the central themes of speakers at the protest was the importation of Western anti-gay ideas into Africa. When African anti-gay leaders claim that homosexuality is a "Western" import into the continent, they turn reality on its head. Not only have many of the anti-gay actions on the continent been directly inspired by a U.S.-based group known as "The Family" -- which includes several high-ranking U.S. politicians from both major parties -- most of Africa's anti-gay laws are direct descendents of laws imposed by white colonial regimes during the early 20th Century.
Indeed, rather than being indigenous to Uganda, some of the language from Uganda's proposed bill uses language that sounds like it was pulled directly from statements by anti-gay activists in the United States: "This Bill aims at strengthening the nation's capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional family. This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic."
Another theme of tonight's action was that pro-gay actions and publicity around the world are beginning to have an effect on the bill. A few weeks ago Ugandan activists reported that the bill -- which proscribed the death penalty for "aggravated" and "serial" homosexuality -- seemed a virtual shoo-in to pass intact. But today came news that the death penalty provision was dropped, and that anti-gay leaders like evangelist Rick Warren and the Vatican have finally publicly condemned the proposed bill.
But while distancing themselves from Uganda's bill in recent statements, both the Catholic hierarchy and Warren also re-stated their moral condemnations of homosexuality. But the pogromist Ugandan bill is just the ultimate, logical extension of these condemnations, even if for the sake of public relations in the West, some anti-gay leaders feel they must reluctantly condemn it. By labeling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people as an entire group "immoral," they dehumanize us. Dehumanizing a group of people is the first step towards legitimizing discrimination and violence against them.
The Gay Liberation Network (www.GayLiberation.net), the initiators of the Chicago action, look forward to future opportunities to work with activists in other countries, especially Uganda, to defeat this bill once and for all.
PLEASE CALL THE WHITE HOUSE
Tell Obama to Speak Out Against This Bill: 202-456-1111
PLEASE CALL THE UGANDAN AMBASSADOR
Perezi K. Kamunanwire
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
For more information on US/Ugandan connection: