Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office sent a press release that said she and Reps. Jared Polis and Barney Frank, along with 90 other members of Congress, sent letters to President Obama and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. They are voicing their opposition to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill.

“The pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda is an appalling violation of human rights and it behooves us, as Americans and Members of Congress, to do all we can to prevent its passage. We fervently hope that President Obama will use the full force of his office to oppose this hateful and life-threatening legislation in Uganda and send a clear message to other countries that such discrimination must not be tolerated.  And, we hope that Ugandan President Museveni recognizes that this legislation is morally untenable and politically harmful to his nation,” said Baldwin.

“This is nothing more than the institutionalization of hatred and bigotry and it must be stopped,” said Polis.

In the letter to Museveni, they point out that Uganda “even seeks to establish extra-territorial jurisdiction,” to extradite gays and lesbians living abroad.

They note that similar legislation is under consideration now in Rwanda and they urge Obama to take all necessary steps to stop it including cutting any bilateral assistance, as Sweden has threatened to do should the bill pass.

The letters sent:

January 21, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to raise serious concerns about a grave injustice occurring in Uganda and other countries that are taking steps to criminalize or otherwise severely discriminate against their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. We consider this to be an international human rights issue, requiring a strong response by you and the United States.

As you are aware, Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati recently introduced draconian legislation in Uganda outlawing homosexuality and making “any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex” punishable by prison or even death. Late last month, the Rwandan Parliament debated but then halted plans to pass a draft revision of their penal code that would have, for the first time, made homosexuality a crime in Rwanda. Burundi has recently added a criminal provision, again in a country where consensual conduct was not previously criminalized.

These global anti-equality efforts are not in keeping with international human rights precepts, nor are they consistent with your March 2009 endorsement of calls at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.  For these reasons, Mr. President, we ask you to demonstrate your personal leadership, and that of our country, in seeking to deter these legislative proposals that would legalize hate in countries with which we have bilateral partnerships.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 is by far the most extreme and hateful attempt by an African country to criminalize the LGBT community. It would increase the penalty for “same sex sexual acts” to life in prison, limit the distribution of information on HIV through a provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” and establish the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death for anyone in Uganda who is HIV positive and has consensual same-sex relations. Further, the bill includes a provision that could lead to the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are, to the government.

This reprehensible bill is not only unjust on its face: Its mere existence could provoke or legitimize violence against individuals who either are LGBT or are rumored to be LGBT, their families, and community leaders in their places of worship, residence, school, or place of business.  The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 even establishes extra-territorial jurisdiction which consequently endangers known LGBT citizens living abroad who may be extradited and prosecuted in Uganda.

Mr. President, we applaud Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent statement of concern about Uganda’s pending legislation. We concur with her fear that the bill would create fear, promote hatred, and potentially divide communities. We take at face value her statement that the U.S. has urged Uganda to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, harassment, or discrimination. We also applaud the recent White House statement indicating your opposition to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda.

However, we strongly believe that the severity of the legislation under consideration in both Uganda and Rwanda requires that you do more. Sweden has indicated that it will cut bilateral assistance to Uganda should the bill be passed. Canada and the United Kingdom also have condemned the bill, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown took up the matter directly with Ugandan President Museveni at the recent Commonwealth Summit. We ask that you use all means available to seek to deter these bills from passage, and that a tangible and meaningful bilateral response be undertaken should either bill be passed into law.

Specifically, we ask that you speak out publicly against this proposed legislation to bring further attention to the issue. Also, given your popularity in Africa, speaking out publicly against Uganda and Rwanda’s proposed anti-homosexual legislation is likely to garner more concern and attention from not only African nations but internationally. We further ask that you give diplomatic weight to your call for homosexuality to be decriminalized worldwide. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties prohibit discrimination and specify that all enjoy the right to privacy, over 80 countries currently have in place sodomy laws or other legal provisions that criminalize the LGBT community. We believe that standing up for the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, reflects the fundamental precepts of our country. We would be pleased to learn what efforts you and your Administration have undertaken since March 2009 to help move other countries toward fully protecting the rights of all their citizens.

We are reaching out to you not only as our President, but as a close ally in the struggle to fight for the human rights of vulnerable minorities. Like you, we believe that human rights violations of any kind should not be tolerated, and the threatened persecution of the LBGT community in Uganda and around the world is unacceptable. As an international leader, the United States has an opportunity to prevent proliferation of hate, civil unrest and violence in Uganda, Rwanda, and other countries considering these devastating policies.  We respectfully ask for your immediate and consequential help in addressing these grave dangers.

Yours truly,

January 21, 2010

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
State House Nakasero
P.O. Box 24594, Kampala

Dear President Museveni:

We write to you to ask you to speak out against, and deter, a grave injustice that is occurring in Uganda. As you are aware, a member of Uganda’s Parliament has introduced legislation outlawing and condemning homosexuality and making “any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex” punishable by prison or death. This egregious bill, which represents one of the most extreme anti-equality measures ever proposed in any country, would create a legal pretext for depriving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans of their liberty, and even their lives.  We respectfully urge you to take swift action to prevent this law, which we are concerned could have a chilling effect both on human rights and on bilateral relations between our countries.

Homosexuality is already outlawed in Uganda. The Penal Code bans “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” However, we understand that prosecutions are rare because the standard of proof requires parties must be “caught in the act.” The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 would facilitate prosecution and would put to death those it found to be guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”; it even would criminalize the “aiding and abetting of homosexuality and promotion of homosexuality”—each charge of which would carry a possible prison sentence of seven years.  This egregious bill is not only unjust on its face: its mere existence almost certainly will lead to violence against individuals who either are LGBT or are rumored to be LGBT, their families, and community leaders in their places of worship, residence, school, or place of business.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act even seeks to establish extra-territorial jurisdiction, which consequently could endanger Ugandan LGBT citizens living abroad whose extradition to, and prosecution in, Uganda might consequently be sought.

Mr. President, this law has attracted considerable unfavorable attention in the United States and in many other countries around the world, where it is rightly seen as an attack on fundamental human liberties and rights.  We have little doubt that its passage would impact negatively on Uganda’s relations with the world community, including in areas of clear importance to the Ugandan people.  For example, Sweden has indicated that it will cut bilateral assistance to Uganda should the bill be passed.  Should the bill be passed, any range of bilateral programs important to relations between our countries and, indeed, to the Ugandan people inevitably would be called under review.  For example, U.S. spending in Uganda last year on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) amounted to almost $300 million, representing approximately 2.6% of the total Ugandan economy.  By seriously compromising efforts to reach LGBT communities in Uganda, passage of the Anti-Homosexual Act would impede the efficacy of PEPFAR’s programs and the achievement of its goals.  In such circumstances, questions would naturally be raised as to whether this humanitarian U.S. investment should be reconsidered.

We respectfully urge you to take immediate steps not only to assure our bilateral relationship, but to place Uganda clearly on the side of equality and fair-mindedness in how its citizens are treated.  As Uganda’s leader, you have the opportunity to prevent proliferation of hate, civil unrest and violence in Uganda. It is our fervent hope that you will use every means possible to convey to leaders in Parliament that this appalling bill is reckless in both intent and possible impact, and should be withdrawn immediately.


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