A man looks on December 11, 2012 at an advertising by campaign group Avaaz in the state-owned Ugandan newspaper The New Vision, protesting against an anti-homosexuality bill. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the new bill proposes to introduce the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for a second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV. It would also criminalize the public promotion of homosexuality — including discussions by rights groups — with a sentence of up to seven years in prison for anyone convicted.
Is there anything extremist right-wing preachers won’t blame on LGBT people? After the Newtown shooting, James Dobson listed tolerance of gay marriage as one of the reasons God’s punishment was directed at a bunch of first graders. And who can forget the classic Jerry Falwell moment, blaming 9/11 on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle….”
It’s easy to laugh at wingnuts, but they have millions of followers and their hate, in the name of some perverted concept of God, gives moral cover to the queer bashers and bullies everywhere.
On Monday, we’re going to be face to face with one of them, Scott Lively, in a courtroom in Springfield, MA. If that name isn’t familiar to you like Falwell’s or Dobson’s, that’s because Lively’s unique contribution to this anti-gay agenda is his persecution consulting in other countries, most notably Uganda, where he brags he is known as the “father” of the anti-gay movements.
Many Americans have heard of the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, which has been introduced in several parliamentary sessions since it arose out of an anti-gay conference that Scott Lively headlined in 2009. But the day-to-day reality for LGBT Ugandans is already violence, death threats, severe discrimination and oppression. Meetings of LGBT activists are raided and shut down, and advocates have been arrested for exercising their rights to speech, assembly and association. LGBT Ugandans’ advocacy, indeed their existence, is already criminalized.
No one has done more to orchestrate this situation than Scott Lively. Since 2002, he has worked systematically to strip away human rights protections from LGBT people in Uganda and elsewhere around the world, to silence them and make it impossible for them to organize and defend their rights. While he peddles the usual, age-old lie that LGBT people are pedophiles in order to deliberately provoke the rage that feeds the growing repression and violence, he combines that myth with a new twist, that gays were also responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler’s Germany is what can happen when a gay movement grows unchecked.
But this case isn’t simply about Lively’s “hate preach.” He long ago moved beyond “mere” hatemongering when he became a kind of persecution consultant, strategizing with influential leaders and cohorts in other countries about ways to further silence and remove LGBT people from basic protections of the law, in particular by criminalizing their advocacy. Persecution, defined as the “severe deprivation of fundamental rights” on the basis of identity, is a crime under international law; to be exact, it’s a “crime against humanity.” This deprivation of fundamental rights of LGBT communities is exactly what Lively aims to bring about. Under U.S. law, foreign citizens who are the victims of crimes against humanity can sue American perpetrators of such crimes. And so Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) is suing Scott Lively for persecuting them. Staff from SMUG and other LGBT advocates who have suffered persecution –arrests, raids, and other severe deprivations of basic rights –will be there on Monday, when the Center for Constitutional Rights will have the honor of representing them in court.
If you happen to be in the Springfield area on Monday, join us in court that day and at a press conference outside afterwards. Wherever you are, though, you can follow the day’s events on Twitter – @theCCR will be live tweeting the event using the hashtag #StoptheHate. Every queer person in America can help expose what Scott Lively is doing by retweeting the news from court and by letting their friends know about this case.
The theology of hate, which blames LGBT people for disasters, natural and man-made, for the destruction of the family and everything in between, has to stop. And it won’t stop if LGBT advocates continue to be denied their fundamental rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, to defend and assert their basic human rights. It won’t stop if plans like Lively’s are allowed to proceed. Religion has often been misused as a justification for maintaining inequality and denying the humanity and dignity of others. Persecution by political forces using the Christian religion is not a new tactic, from the Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials, but in the 21st Century we have laws against it and it’s time to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Vince Warren is the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.