Uganda Be Kidding Me

Half a world away, a very serious human rights matter has risen with tracks that follow back to our own yellow brick road.

Sure, Kansas queers have a couple of things we could complain about. It’s perfectly legal to be fired from a job for being gay in this state. A constitutional amendment exists to deny same-sex couples basic legal rights. However, there’s something gay Kansans do have here that our friends in the east African nation of Uganda may soon covet- the right to be alive.

It’s actually illegal to be gay in a number of places abroad. Punishment ranges from large fines to public beatings to prison sentences in many places. A bill has been introduced in Uganda’s parliament that would go beyond that by mandating the death penalty for what the bill’s author coins “aggravated homosexuality.”

Uganda be kidding, right?

Sadly, no, and it isn’t just gay people who need fear retribution.   Anyone who knows a gay person and doesn’t report their knowledge to the police will be thrown in jail. Anyone who advocates or speaks out on behalf of gay rights will also get locked up.  If you lived in Uganda, every person reading this magazine would be in big trouble—unless you turned me into the police to be executed!

As we Americans argue over if gay couples should be allowed to marry, elsewhere, there’s an argument taking place over whether gay people can just BE. I, of course, write this column with my western perspective.  In Uganda, family is a keen value; anything that threatens its traditional structure is a problem that must be stopped. Homosexuality is seen as being the death-keel to traditional family values, so thus, the death penalty is seen by some as a suitable solution. I know that different societies have different values and cultural beliefs. There’s a fine line between tolerance and tyranny, though.

There’s also apparently a not-so-fine line between Kansas and Uganda politicians.

The author of this bill, Uganda Member of Parliament David Bahati, is a key associate of the American “secret society” known as The Family. It is well documented that our own Senator Sam Brownback is among this ultra-conservative clan. Jeff Sharlet, author of a book documenting The Family’s ties, says the group has funneled millions of dollars into the Ugandan anti-gay campaign, and considers Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni as the “key man” for protecting family values in Uganda.  Sharlet also says Museveni can go to Brownback if he wants money for arms or any other project—such as getting this bill passed.

This is quite troubling given the fact that Brownback is the apparent frontrunner to become Kansas’ next governor this fall. In the past, he has used his influential status to aid other global humanitarian issues, such as working to end international sex trafficking. On this issue, though, he has yet to comment or detail his involvement with Uganda officials as it relates. It’s a deafening silence; it’s not a quashing quiet, though.

We have the right to do something in Kansas that our gay brothers and sisters in Uganda don’t have right now. We can ask questions and demand answers. No one’s going to execute us in Wichita for demanding to know the depth of our Senator’s involvement. No one will go jail for asking him to use his apparent connections to speak against and stop this atrocity.  In fact, you can call his office right now and let his staff know you want to see some action– (316) 264-8066. It’s an issue that may seem a world away, but apparently it’s been blown straight to Oz!

(You can also e-mail Brownback’s office by filling out a comment form at http://brownback.senate.gov/public/contact/emailsam.cfm)

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