Uganda and Us

Officials in Uganda may be responding to our rhetoric rather than our rationale. Box Turtle Bulletin notes that amendments to the anti-homosexuality bill could replace the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" with a life sentence. That may be why BTB is now only referring to the bill as the "Anti-Gay Bill" rather than the "Kill Gays Bill."

But this is exactly why I was originally troubled by our inflammatory rhetoric that seemed to focus more on the penalty than the problem.

The death penalty is the ultimate government-sponsored punishment, and reveals the vicious and inhuman impulse behind the legislation. But even if the bill included only fixed prison terms, it is every bit as retrograde and malicious. It explicitly carves out homosexuality from the moral and legal universe. It establishes a civil world in which lesbians and gay men have no place; worse than that, it makes us criminals, and attempts to make even our supporters complicit in the crime of our mere existence. Citizens may not even speak favorably of homosexuality, or write affirmingly about equality without criminal sanction.

But to the extent America has any moral high ground on this issue, it is only a matter of degree. Both DOMA and DADT do implicitly what this bill is proud to say it does - invoke the force of the law to treat homosexuals as a different kind of being from heterosexuals, and draw specific rules that apply only to homosexuals, with entirely different rules applicable to heterosexuals. For any heterosexuals reading this, try to imagine a law that would result in your dismissal if you mentioned your spouse. Then imagine what it might be like if you could not publicly even testify before Congress about that law's unfairness, because even that would have the same result. And try to imagine what a law to allow you the qualified ability to speak might look like. Finally, imagine someone telling you this whole scheme is not a violation of your right to free speech.

To be sure, ours are only civil sanctions, not criminal ones, and the penalties are economic, psychological and social. That makes it easier for many heterosexuals to invoke a plausible deniability about the segregation the laws impose. No prison time here.

But irrespective of the kind of penalty, this is the most craven and degraded use of law. Fortunately, after many decades of work, we have the social and constitutional structure in the U.S. to minimize the damage, and fight for something better. I don't see anything like that to protect the homosexual citizens of Uganda.

9 Comments for “Uganda and Us”

  1. posted by Jack on

    Do you honestly think that the “social and constitutional structure in the U.S.” will have any value if the day comes that a real gay-hating, religion-drunk populist movement gets control in this country (as opposed to the entirely fake right-wing populism of the current GOP)?

    Do you really think the “American people” will then rise up to protect the homos from any kind of ignominy that such a government would care to subject us to?

    With “mainstreamers” like Rick Warren and certain Washington politicians supporting both openly and tacitly, as the case may be, the impending effort to homo-cleanse Uganda, and with someone as demogogic as Sarah Palin attracting a near cult-like devotion from millions of people, there is clearly an already vast number of people who would quite be quite happy to see the queers get their just desserts. That’s something like between 30% and 40% of the population in this country, with their elected representatives backing anti-gay, well, everything pretty much to the hilt?

    Will the mushy middle really stand up to stop anti-gay animus if a right-wing, religious populism chooses to unleash it? The evidence of 31 states says probably not.

  2. posted by Jack on

    One more comment:

    Given his dissents in both Romer vs. Evans and Lawrence vs. Texas in which he stated quite clearly his opinion that anti-gay animus codified into law passes constitutional muster as a representation of the will of the people, will Antonin Scalia and judges like him protect gays from the wrath of proscriptive laws?

    Scalia is the alpha and omega of jurisprudential wisdom for every Republican politician in America. If the GOP had its way, every judgeship in the country would be filled with a Nino Scalia. I think that really says it all about the protections of “the social and constitutional structure” should the Christianists find their political messiah and get him or her into office.

  3. posted by Neil D on

    Gay Westerners have made so much progress in such little time that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be really oppressed. As we push the limits of tolerance in America, we should be mindful of the backlash not only here but in other countries like Uganda. We whine about not getting marriage rights while our brothers and sisters are subject to the most inhuman treatment in Africa and the Muslim world.

    The big city ‘mos are indulging their religious and romantic fantasies about marriage while ignoring the real world. It’s shameful.

  4. posted by Bobby on

    Let’s see…

    A. Being put to death for being gay.

    B. Spending the rest of your life in an Ugandan prison for being gay.

    I think option A is better.

    But seriously Jack, don’t compare Sarah Pallin to the fascists running Uganda. As governor of Alaska, did she set up concentration camps for gays? Did she tried to pass sodomy laws? Give republicans a break, when SCOTUS overturned the sodomy laws I didn’t see them running to set up a constitutional amendment to bring them back.

    Without people like Sarah Pallin abortion would be paid for by the estate, nobody except cops would have guns, taxes would skyrocket, the government would force you to drive your car 4 days a week (they tried that in Mexico), and this country would be a liberal la la land like Europe. It is people like Pallin that prevent the liberals from going too far, like Obama and his plan to impose cap and trade which would make electricity rates skyrocket.

    Don’t believe me? Here’s a clip of Obama admiting what cap and trade does.

  5. posted by The Razor on

    Where has the LGBT community been when Iran, Iraq, Gaza and other Muslim communities encourage their citizens to commit gay genocide? “crickets chirping” Yet now that the evangelicals of Uganda want to make such atrocities legal, the LGBT community screams: Those hateful Christians. LGBT genocide, is and has been going on in Muslim countires non-stop, yet not a word from the LGBT powers that be. Read “The Hunted” in The new York magazine by Matt Mcallester 10/21/09 edition. The LGBT community needs to get their head out of the sand and realize that it is not just Uganda, it is Islam as well.

  6. posted by Jimmy on

    I agree that there has not been enough vocal outrage on the part of LGBT organizations regarding the terrorism that is perpetrated against homosexuals in many islamic societies.

    What is particularly galling about the situation in Uganda is how some members of the US congress, through their fellowship with ‘The Family’, the christian dominionist organization and power broker operating out of C Street, have been using Uganda as their own dominionist playground. The anti-gay legislation springs from that same hotbed of fundamentalism in which radical islam flourishes. Both have the same delusional goals of theocratic world domination. Uganda is only a testing ground for things they would like to have come to pass here in the US.

  7. posted by Richard J. Rosendall on

    Jack, if you truly don’t understand the difference between barring gay people from marriage and imprisoning them–if your fevered hypotheticals blind you to the great progress we have made in this country in the last half century, or you refuse to acknowledge our progress because you can imagine it all being taken away–if, in short, you refuse to recognize the vast, real differences between the American and Ugandan situations for gays, then you deserve to live in Uganda.

    As to the Razor’s comments: many vocal gay activists on the left are reluctant to criticize anyone but Westerners. There is a staggering double standard.

  8. posted by Clement on

    Richard: If you truly don’t understand how precarious our hard-won rights are; if you truly don’t grasp the size of the population that would be all too happy to criminalize homosexual activity right here in the USA, then you need to get out into “Real America®” more often. I live in a rural town in central California (pop. 2200) where you can see a big yellow “Yes on 8” sign standing proudly on many a front lawn (a year after they won!) It’s all over the place, on car bumpers, too — it seems to have become an easy way to daily demonstrate publicly one’s support for “fightin’ the good fight” against the Homo Agenda.

    But that’s California. I visited my brother last summer in Boise, Idaho. Now THAT’S Real America, buddy. Boise is the largest city in the state, and presumably, the most “liberal” that Idaho gets. After spending 3 weeks in July there, I came away with a different attitude about many things. First off, I learned that the “Tea Party” protesters were not “astroturf,” as the media have been trying their best to characterize them. I learned that the “Birthers” were not merely some fringe loonies that rational people dismissed. In Real America, sociologists have a term for these two groups: the “norm.”

    My brother took me to a store and I saw people standing in a line out the door at a gun shop, people trying to get their turn buying primers for DIY reloading because they were being rationed to one box of 6 per person per day (at 8 times the price they were going for a year before.) After the election, there was a run on ammo and primers due to a fear that the Obama Administration would impose their gun control agenda by severely restricting ammunition. This dramatically increased demand was the cause of the suddenly short supply of primers, a situation that further fanned the fears that “Obama is coming after your guns!” which led to a vicious circle and high emotions when talking (yelling) politics. They are not a fringe group. They are “just folks” out here in Real America. And they are pissed off. They spit the name “Obama” as an epithet, and it is used in place of “the government” in almost any applicable sentence. He is not an American, he is not One of Us, he is a Muslim and believes we deserved 9/11 for actions he continues to apologize on America’s behalf for. Their fears are irrational, even paranoid, and utterly pervasive. Palin and her ilk know this. They share in some of it themselves, of course, but they know when they are crossing from righteous fury to self-righteous indignation to demagoguery to unvarnished shill. And back.

    There were no signs on lawns or bumper stickers displaying their support of hetero-normative marriage. This was too well understood in such a community to even bother thinking about. There were a few odd “God hates fags” type of bumper stickers, but they were almost beside the point. Most of Idaho is Mormon (and if not, fundamentalist Protestant), and this issue simply doesn’t exist. It is not something that Real America is wrestling with, as is California or Maine. Once you get out into the “heartland” of this great country, and talk to the regular folks, you will realize that the regular folks think this whole homoseckshull nonsense has just gone too far. American Idol? Catholic Priests? Airport bathrooms? Teaching sin in our schools? Somehow they got into the military and all they gotta do is be quiet about it, like any decent person! But that ain’t good enough for ’em! Now they want to get married? MARRIED? That’s just the stupidest thing I ever heard. Can you imagine? A man gettin’ married to another MAN! What is the world comin’ to? The Bible said it would be like this. ‘Signs of the Times.’ Next they’re gonna want the right to molest children, you watch!

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