The White House bashed Uganda’s government for approving a new law penalizing homosexual conduct, and threatened to cut U.S. aid to the poor and embattled country.
The news follows the administration’s prior criticism of Russia and Nigeria for their treatment of homosexuals.
The high-profile, symbolic fight likely will solidify Obama’s support among progressives and wealthy gay donors in the run-up to the November 2014 election.
The White House’s opposition “reflects our strong disagreement with the decision to sign that legislation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “It is a sad day for Uganda. … The Ugandan president took a step backward,” said Carney.
“The United States is deeply disappointed. … [The law] blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution,” said a Monday statement from Secretary of State John Kerry, who also threatened to cut off $400 million in annual aid.
During the White House press conference, a reporter asked why the White House is focusing on Uganda, given that numerous other African and Muslim-majority countries have laws barring and penalizing homosexual conduct. “I would have to refer you to the State Department,” Carney evaded.
The Daily Caller asked if the president would extend his homosexual-rights policy to Saudi Arabia, which he plans to visit in March. Carney declined to answer. The Saudi government’s Islamic legal system frequently jails people for homosexual conduct, and allows for the death penalty.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni championed the law, which allows judges to impose a life sentence for homosexual activities. “We are sorry to see that you live the way you live, but we keep quiet about it,” he told CNN Monday. “Now you say ‘You must also live like us’ — that’s where we say no.”
“There’s now an attempt at social imperialism — to impose social values of one group on our society,” he said.
Uganda has a population of 35 million divided among many tribes. The percentage of Ugandans who are homosexual is probably well under five percent.
Ugandans’ average income is $1,400. Women work much longer hours than men. Life expectancy is roughly 54 years. Roughly 12 percent of the population is Muslim,and the the government is fighting a jihadi force in the north. The country’s north is close to war zones in Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The new law toughens the country’s existing penalties against homosexual activities. The law’s first draft included a death penalty, which was dropped.
Numerous Islamic states have a death penalty for homosexual activity, but the White House administration has not highlighted that problem.
The White House’s sharp remarks were likely intended to spur emotional fights that could spike turnout by progressive voters during the 2014 election, and funding by wealthy gay donors during the next few months.
In 2012, prior to the November election, Obama came out in support of granting marriages licenses to single-sex couples. That announcement prompted a wave of donations, according to The Washington Post. “Obama’s reelection team is experiencing a major surge in contributions since his announcement, suggesting that the issue could serve as a powerful fundraising tool in the months ahead, according to campaign bundlers and donors,” the Post reported.
The State Department statement also highlighted the administration’s recent effort to hit other countries that don’t meet the administration’s priorities, which include a legal redefinition of marriage to allow single-sex couple to get marriage licenses, regardless of any intention to raise children. “From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons,” the statement said.
For example, Obama used Russia’s management of the Sochi Olympics to boost the issue. In fact, he angered Russia’s government by sending several gay athletes to represent the United States, even as he publicly sought Russia’s support to quell bloody conflicts in Syria and Iran.