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Ugandan President Signs Controversial Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law a bill enacting extremely harsh criminal penalties for homosexuals and their supporters.
Posted at 12:39 PM, Feb 24, 2014

A new law in Uganda now makes it illegal not only to be openly gay, but to openly support gay rights. 

After some back and forth on the issue, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ultimately signed the bill that makes some homosexual acts now punishable by life in prison — and criminalizes those who do not report them, or even those who talk positively about homosexuality in public. (Via Sky News)

The bill was first introduced by a Ugandan lawmaker in 2009. In Uganda, homosexual acts were already punishable by prison sentences. However, the original 2009 proposal went far beyond that, calling for the death penalty in some instances. (Via BBC, WDRB)

That drew international backlash, with countries threatening to pull millions of dollars in aid if the country approved the bill. After shelving it for nearly five years, the Ugandan Parliament reconsidered the measure, replacing the death penalty clause with lifelong prison sentences, and passed it last December. (Via Al Jazeera)

President Museveni appeared unsure about signing the bill last month, describing homosexuals as "sick" people who need help, not imprisonment. 

However, he backtracked on that statement this month when he said scientists determined there was no gene that causes homosexuality: "These are normal people, with abnormal behavior." (Via CNN)

Although the law is winning widespread praise in Uganda, its signing has set the stage for a showdown with Western countries — at stake, billions of dollars in foreign aid. 

President Obama says the law will "complicate" the U.S.'s relationship with Uganda, describing it as "more than an affront, and a danger to Uganda's gay community ... a step backwards for all Ugandans." (Via The White House)

The Wall Street Journal says it's unclear how their relationship may be affected, but that the two are close military allies. 

"The U.S. spends millions of dollars every year to support Ugandan troops, who are engaged in regional anti-militant operations ... [It] has also dispatched military advisers to help Ugandan soldiers hunt the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, head of the Lord's Resistance Army, who has attempted to overthrow Mr. Museveni's government."

Homosexuality is illegal in around 30 other African countries. Gay rights activists across the world have condemned the newly-signed Ugandan law.