The State Department has criticized Uganda’s new “Kill the Gays” bill, but stopped short of promising to cut foreign aide to the country.
Last week, Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said that the government plans to reintroduce legislation that would allow the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality in some cases.
Lokodo said that the government has been lobbying parliament and that they were confident that it would pass.
“The U.S. government firmly opposes criminalization of LGBTI individuals,” said a U.S. State Department official. “We stand with Uganda’s LGBTI community and Ugandans of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend the dignity of all citizens.”
The U.S. provides almost $1 billion a year in military and development assistance to the majority-Christian nation, including funds for HIV medications for nearly one million people in Uganda.
The State Department official was asked whether the U.S. is considering cutting funding, but they said that the American government isn’t there yet.
“At this point, there has been no credible information that the government of Uganda is seriously considering introducing this bill.”
While Lokodo appears confident that the bill will pass, it has not been formally introduced into Uganda’s parliament yet.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Lokodo said last week.
In 2009, a different Kill the Gays bill was introduced in parliament, and it passed in 2013. In 2014, though, the nation’s high court struck it down on a procedural issue.
In 2014, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Uganda because of the first Kill the Gays law. The Obama administration canceled several programs in Uganda, including a military exercise, and the World Bank indefinitely postponed a loan to Uganda.
The State Department under Donald Trump has said that it started a global initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality, one of the few pro-LGBTQ stances the Trump administration has taken. The initiative has yet to have any successes, but Uganda might be where they’re starting.