Obama, Congress denounce Uganda anti-gay bill

Obama, Congress denounce Uganda anti-gay bill

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton [official website] on Thursday denounced proposed legislation in the Ugandan parliament [official website] that would implement harsh punishments for homosexual behavior, including the death penalty in some circumstances. Obama called the the proposed bill "odious" and said, "we may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are."

Obama and Clinton's criticism comes a day after US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs [official website] introduced a congressional resolution [resolution, PDF] condemning the Ugandan bill.

The US is not the only one criticizing Uganda over the proposed anti-gay bill. In January, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said the bill was discriminatory [JURIST report] and could harm Uganda's reputation internationally. In addition to same-sex sexual relations, the bill also imposes punishments of up to three years in prison for those who fail to report the identity of a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered within 24 hours, including family members. The bill has come under fire since it was introduced [BBC report] in October by David Bahati, a MP from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) [party website]. Uganda currently criminalizes [BBC report] homosexual behavior with up to 14 years in prison. The Ugandan parliament is expected to debate the bill in late February or early March.