A crowd of U.S. LGBT activists, holding signs outside the Hampden Federal Courthouse in Massachusetts, braved the early morning cold to support Uganda’s LGBTI community in the first case of its type on U.S. soil, where opening arguments commenced today in a motion for dismissal by anti-gay pastor Scott Lively.
Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community of Uganda, under the umbrella organization Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),are suing Lively, founder of Abiding Truth Ministries, in a case charging that he had committed crimes against humanity.
The lawsuit has been brought under the Alien Tort Act, which allows foreigners to sue in American courts in situations alleging the violation of international law. The suit claims that Lively’s actions resulted in the persecution, arrest, torture and murder of homosexuals in Uganda.
The activists from several U.S. organizations joined six of the Ugandan plaintiff members of SMUG who arrived from Uganda especially to attend the hearing, where Lively is requesting, for the second time, that the case against him be dismissed by the Court.
The case against Lively asserts that he went beyond hate-mongering by actively pursued a strategy together with influential co-conspirators, including pastors and parliamentarians in Uganda, to “criminalize advocacy,” by conspiring to violate LGBTI Ugandan’s rights to free speech, assembly and the freedom of association by LGBTI groups.
After hearing argument by both sides today, the Judge reserved his decision. A further and more detailed report shall follow this report. In the meantime the Judge has reserved Judgment for a later date as to whether or not the case will be dismissed or proceed to trial.
Amongst the LGBT supporters and activists was Lt. Dan Choi, Cathy Kristofferson, co-lead of GetEQUAL MA., and Ugandan human rights defender Pepe Onziema who attended the oral arguments. (See Picture , bottom Right)
Onziema, addressing the crowd, said he came to Massachusetts “to face the devil.”
“Coming face to face with the man who has caused us so much pain is important to me. We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda. This case is about making it clear to people who have exported their hate agenda to Uganda that their actions have a very real effect on us and they must stop.” said Onziema.