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Liberian president reverses course on anti-gay comments

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

MONROVIA, Liberia — A spokesperson for Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier statement that Johnson-Sirleaf has vowed to veto any legislation that would criminalize homosexual behavior in the Wast African country.

The announcement comes after Johnson-Sirleaf drew fierce criticism for asserting, in a joint interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, that there were no anti-gay laws in Liberia, even if the country’s religious and cultural beliefs condemned “homosexual practices.”

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

This statement is at odds with a current statue that calls for up to a year in prison for what Liberian Criminal code labels “voluntary sodomy.”

But in a statement Tuesday, Johnson-Sirleaf said that she would not condone discrimination against any group, nor impose her own beliefs on the nation country.

“I will never condone discrimination against any group,” she said, further adding that she would use her constitutional right to block what she described as “extremist legislation” that would marginalize people on account of their sexual orientation.

Johnson-Sirleaf added she would allow democracy to take its own course, and let the citizens of Liberia discuss issues in “an atmosphere of freedom.”

During his visit to Liberia last month, Blair avoided answering questions about his view on that country’s anti-gay laws.

In a joint interview with Blair, Johnson-Sirleaf indicated she would not consider repealing the laws criminalizing homosexual acts in her country, and said, “We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve … We like ourselves just the way we are.”

When pressed, Blair refused to answer when asked what advice he would give President Sirleaf, instead deflecting the issue by saying: “One of the advantages of doing what I do now is I can choose the issues I get into and the issues I don’t. For us, the priorities are around power, roads, jobs delivery.”

Some activists have called for the revocation of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2011 to Johnson-Sirleaf.

Homophobia in Liberia runs rampant with one group issuing a “hit list” against LGBTQ people.

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