RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – President Barack Obama warned Uganda on Sunday over its plans to further criminalize homosexuality, saying it would “complicate our valued relationship.”
Defending gay rights around the world, as he has done at home, Obama said a bill that President Yoweri Museveni has pledged to sign will mark a “step backward” for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on the country’s commitment to protect the human rights of its people. It also would represent a serious setback for anyone committed to freedom, justice and equal rights, Obama said.
Obama said the United States stands for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights and believes people everywhere should be treated equally.
“That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality,” Obama said in a written statement. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”
Homosexuality already is illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex acts “against the order of nature.”
Museveni said last week that he plans to sign the new legislation, which has alarmed rights activists because it prescribes life imprisonment for acts of “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as sex acts where one of the partners is infected with HIV, sex with minors or the disabled and repeated sexual offenses among consenting adults.
It was unclear when Museveni will sign the bill. Ugandan lawmakers passed it in December and Museveni since has been under heavy pressure to enact it. The measure enjoys broad support among Christian clerics and lawmakers who say it is needed to deter Western homosexuals from “recruiting” Ugandan children.
U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice said on Twitter that she spoke “at length” with Museveni on Saturday and urged him not to sign the bill.