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Uganda Speaker gets blessing from Pope; still no vote on ‘kill the gays’ bill

Uganda Speaker gets blessing from Pope; still no vote on ‘kill the gays’ bill

VATICAN CITY — Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who last month promised that her country’s anti-homosexuality bill would be approved as a “Christmas gift” to the nation, received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI during a mass attended by at the Vatican on Wednesday.

Kadaga led a delegation of Ugandan legislators to the Vatican, and expressed delight at meeting the Pope and visiting St Peter’s Basilicca, according to the Uganda’s Parliament website.

“I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically. I think it is something that I will remember all my life. Its a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” Kadaga said minutes after meeting the Pope.

In November, Kadaga said that the controversial anti-homosexuality bill, dubbed the “Kill the Gays Bill,” will pass by the end of the year, but Uganda’s parliament has yet to take up the measure.

“Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we’ll give them that gift,” Kadaga told Reuters on Nov. 13.

The bill, originally introduced in 2009 by MP David Bahati, includes a clause which calls for the death penalty against people found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” — defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender.” It also imposes harsher jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances.

But one LGBT activist in Uganda said Thursday that the bill could die a procedural death as early as this weekend.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), said he believes the Ugandan Parliament may break up for the year without passing the notorious bill.

Unless Kadaga asks for an extension of the current session, the bill will fail without a vote when lawmakers break up for the year on Saturday, he said.

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