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How Deep Is the Republican Christian Right's Connection to the Anti-Gay Bills Sweeping Sub-Saharan Africa?

As the horrific "kill-the-gays" bill resurfaces in Uganda, Republican politicians deny connections, but their rhetoric is frighteningly similar.

Uganda’s notorious " kill-the-gays" bill, supported by some far-right Christian advocates in United States, was placed back on the Ugandan Parliament’s schedule for a vote yesterday. The proposed legislation punishes repeated instances of “homosexual behavior” – or sex – with the death penalty. Unless a member of Parliament releases the date and time to the public, it could be brought before the legislature’s Lower House for a vote at any moment. After that, it would need to pass the Upper House, and could become law very quickly.

This means it’s time to put pressure on the White House and the  State Department to use diplomatic pressures to put a stop to this bill and others like it once and for all. (An officer at the State Department’s press office told me the agency could not comment for this article because the legislation has not yet passed.) We must also call upon State to cease the practice of deporting LGBT Ugandans back to their home country. As journalist Jeff Sharlet points out, international pressure has taken this bill off the table in the past and could very well do so again. Still, similar campaigns are underway throughout Africa. The worldwide fight against LGBT human rights abuses is only beginning.

In the weeks following Hillary Clinton’s historic December United Nations speech claiming that “ gay rights are human rights,” the conservative Christian community in the United States has castigated the Obama administration. Clinton's speech was popularly interpreted as a rebuke of countries like Uganda, where the  Anti-Homosexuality bill calling for the execution of some LGBT people, keeps popping up. The Christian Right is particularly outraged by State Department plans to withhold aid to countries that violate basic LGBT human rights.

At Right-Wing Watch, Brian Tashman posted immediate  condemnations from 700 Club Host Pat Robertson and Christian radio host Janet Meffird. Robertson said, “This country cannot continue to violate God’s principles and to make a mockery of his laws and think we’re going to get away with it. And when the blow comes, it’s going to be horrible.”

Meffird jumped into the fray to support anti-gay measures on the table in Nigeria that include long-term imprisonment. She dismissed claims that these anti-gay campaigns are stoking violence against LGBT people, asking, “All right, but they’re not killing them, are they?”

Matt Barber of the right-wing Liberty Council Action  said, “[T]his Obama administration, instead of focusing on real human rights abuses, is trying to force nations to adopt America’s immoral positions on issues of sexuality.” Peter Sprigg, a fellow at the Family Research Council,  called it an attempt “to impose an alien ideology on other countries.”

Peter Labarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, was perhaps the  most histrionic of all. He called the new initiative “an affront to our Declaration of Independence.” He wrote, “Homosexuality – once widely regarded as a Crime Against Nature [sic] – is no more a ‘fundamental human right’ than any other sexual sin. Moreover, its practice is linked disproportionately to sexual diseases like HIV, anal cancer, hepatitis, gonorrhea and syphilis. Culturally and practically speaking, what makes this perversion unique is that it has a powerful and well-funded (‘gay’) movement behind it… All Americans who love God and respect his wonderful design for mankind should be ashamed of Obama’s and Hillary’s campaign to force a deeply flawed sexual ideology on innocent nations that do NOT want to emulate American decadence.”

This was a predictable response. The radical right’s hostility toward LGBT people is well-known. Any measure to protect LGBT people from abuse is viewed as “special treatment.” And so far, gays and lesbians have been a favorite wedge topic for conservative candidates trying to distinguish themselves from frontrunner Mitt Romney and court a far-right base.  Rick Santorum famously told Glenn Beck that states should have the freedom to criminalize gay sex. 

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