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Letter to Congress Regarding Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

Posted: January 14, 2010

Responding to proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda, ADL joined with leaders representing a wide range of faiths in calling on members of Congress to speak out against the growing criminalization of and violence toward LGBT persons in the African nation. A coalition of 46 groups wrote to each U.S. Representative urging them to sign-on to Congressional letters to President Obama and Ugandan President Museveni asking them oppose to the Ugandan bill, which includes a death penalty provision and criminalizes those who fail to report suspected homosexuals to the authorities.

January 13, 2010

Dear Members of Congress,

As leaders of organizations representing a wide range of faiths, we share the central tenet that every human being is created in the image of God. It is because of this fundamental belief that we decry the alarming increase in human rights violations targeting sexual orientation and gender identity, including, most recently, the anti-homosexuality legislation now under debate in Uganda.

As American faith leaders, we ask you to oppose the criminalization of, and violence toward, LGBT communities and individuals by signing on to Congressional letters to President Barack Obama and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni currently being circulated by the House of Representatives Equality Caucus, chaired by Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Barney Frank (DMA). A similar letter is being circulated by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate.

The proposed Uganda "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" criminalizes homosexuality and expands the penal code to punish "aggravated homosexuality," including activity by "serial offenders" or those who are HIV positive. Among its many cruel provisions, a person who fails to report within 24 hours the identity of anyone perceived to be LGBT or who supports the human rights of LGBT individuals would be subject to up to three years imprisonment. The bill also criminalizes the "promotion of homosexuality" which includes providing funding to organizations that serve LGBT people. This measure would severely threaten HIV/AIDS prevention, services and treatment, making the work of groups seeking to prevent the spread of HIV nearly impossible. Local and international pressure has led the Ugandan government to a non-binding verbal agreement to remove the death penalty and life imprisonment for those convicted of homosexual acts from the bill. However, with or without the death penalty provision, the legislation remains one of the most abhorrent manifestations of a worldwide escalation of violence and human rights violations against sexual minorities.

Uganda is not an exception, but instead the logical evolution of an alarming trend. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. Even nations that do not have similar legislation encourage human rights violators by failing in their duty to protect their citizens' right to security and creating a culture of impunity. The brutal gang rape and fatal stabbing of a prominent South African black lesbian activist and the sentencing of nine Senegalese men involved in HIV prevention services for gay men to eight years in prison for "engaging in acts against the order of nature" are two incidents that illustrate the type of violations occurring with devastating frequency. Arbitrary arrests, assaults, intimidation, sexual violence and murder against LGBT people are the norm in many parts of the developing world.

We strongly believe that the issues at stake are larger than the specific concerns of any one group in society, but rather represent a grave threat to human rights for all. Whenever basic human rights such as equal recognition under the law, the right to life, assembly, association, expression, privacy, and non-discrimination are denied, we are compelled by our moral traditions and by history not to remain silent. It is in that spirit that we ask you to add your support to the Congressional letters to Presidents Obama and Museveni.


Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Philadelphia, PA Victoria Kovari
National Field Director
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
Central Conference of American Rabbis

The Reverend Steve Clapp
Christian Community Inc.

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Reverend Edler Nancy Wilson,
The Reverend Pat Bumgardner,
Global Justice Ministry Metropolitan Community Churches

The Reverend Michael Kinnamon, Ph.D.
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Pastor Brian D. McLaren

Catherine Gordon
Representative for International Issues
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Washington Office

Rabbi David Saperstein
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Leadership Team Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

The Reverend Peter Morales
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

James E. Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society United Methodist Church

Jason F. Isaacson
Director of Government and International Affairs
American Jewish Committee

Nancy Ratzan
National Council of Jewish Women
Ruth Messinger
American Jewish World Service

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League

James E. Hug, S.J.
Center of Concern

Lynn Schusterman
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

The Reverend Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Disciples Justice Action Network
Disciples Center for Public Witness

Rabbi Steve Gutow
Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Gregg Drinkwater
Executive Director
Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity

Lori Weinstein
Executive Director
Jewish Women International

Idit Klein
Executive Director

Jay Michaelson
Executive Director
Nehirim: GLBT Jewish Culture & Spirituality

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner
Executive Director
Religious Institute

David Ainsman,
Jeffrey Cohan,
Community and Public Affairs Council of the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh

Diane Fisher
Director, Community Relations
Council of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley

Brenda Landau
Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona

David Sufrin,
Chair Edie Naveh, Director
The Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh

Jay Tcath
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs
Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago

Anthony Sussman
Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas

Rabbi Doug Kahn,
Executive Director
Ruvim Braude,
Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda, and Contra Mesa Counties

Batya Abramson-Goldstein
Executive Director
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis

Rabbi Allen B. Bennett
Board of Rabbis of Northern California

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom Berkeley, CA

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D.
Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
American Jewish University Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Lisa Edwards
Beth Chayim Chadashim
Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Southern California Board of Rabbis

Rabbi David Greenstein
Congregation Shomrei Emunah
Montclair, NJ

Rabbi Yoel Kahn
Senior Rabbi
Congregation Beth El
Berkeley, CA

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Senior Rabbi
Rabbi Ayelet Cohen Rabbi
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah
New York, NY

Joel L. Kushner, Psy.D.
Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Joshua Lesser
Congregation Bet Haverim
Atlanta, GA

Rabbi Daniel Nevins
Pearl Resnick Dean
The Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary
New York, NY

Rabbi Marc Soloway
Congregation Bonai Shalom
Boulder, CO

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