Ugandan Court Overturns Anti-Gay Law, Stigma Remains

Uganda's highest court struck down a harsh anti-gay law, but the victory might only be temporary for gay rights activists.
Posted at 5:41 PM, Aug 01, 2014

Uganda's harsh anti-gay law, which attracted widespread condemnation from the international community, was struck down Friday by the country's highest court.  

The law, signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February, would have punished "attempted homosexuality" and "aggravated homosexuality" with life in prison and, in some cases, the death sentence. 

"That you can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women here or elsewhere, and you are attracted by a man. That's a very serious matter." (Via NTV Uganda)

The Constitutional Court's ruling came as a surprise in a country dominated by Museveni, an outspoken opponent of gay rights who has been in power since 1986. (Via The Guardian)

Time reports the court invalidated the law on a technicality, noting the lack of a quorum when the vote was taken.

The law has attracted intense scrutiny from media and political activists worldwide.

American radio host Bryan Fischer, who also opposes gay rights, praised the bill and compared the issue favorably to "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson's controversial comments about gays.  (Via Twitter / @BryanJFischer, Getty Images)

Meanwhile, President Obama called the bill "a step backward for all Ugandans" ​and said it would "complicate our valued relationship with Uganda." (Via The White House)

And in a nation where 20 percent of the budget is funded by foreign aid, those kind of statements can translate into economic losses. (Via Al Jazeera)

"Norway and Denmark and the Netherlands have already decided and announced that they will withhold any further aid to the nation of Uganda because of this issue." (Via MSNBC)

The New York Times points out a 2009 anti-gay bill was proposed in the country thanks to a series of presentations given by three American pastors to Ugandan leaders.  

Yet despite international pressure, the stigma against gays remains powerful in Uganda.

Fusion calls the overwhelmingly Christian and conservative nation one of the worst places in the world to be gay. 

"I actually don't go to the city because I've been attacked on the street many times." (Via PBS)

In October a popular national newspaper "outed" 100 gay people and suggested hanging them. (Via The Independent)

"So I was on the newspaper. So the villagers want to set my house ablaze. They want to burn my house." (Via CNN)

The court's decision might be only a temporary victory for gay rights activists. Parliament will have another chance to pass the bill later this year.