Five members of the U.S. Congress are calling on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to reject proposed legislation imposing harsh penalties on homosexuals.
The measure reportedly mandates a life sentence for a single act of homosexuality and the death penalty if the person is HIV positive.
The congressmen have sent a letter to President Museveni saying the legislation is a violation of human rights and is inconsistent with a “Christian spirit of love and mercy.”
Among those who signed the letter is Republican Congressman Frank Wolf of the state of Virginia.
“We think the legislation is wrong and inappropriate. We ask that he do everything he can to either veto the bill or kill the bill,” he says.
Wolf is joined by representatives Chris Smith, Joe Pitts, Trent Franks and Anh “Joseph” Cao. All are Republican Executive Committee members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives.
The congressmen cite not only human rights concerns, but religious ones as well, saying they support the principles of the Manhattan Declaration.
The declaration was signed In November by 140 leaders representing all branches of “American Christianity.”
“As members of Congress and as men of faith, we support the principle set forth in the Manhattan Declaration and are thankful for the principled position of these faith leaders on a host of issues, from the sanctity of life for the unborn and others, to religious freedom, to human dignity, to the belief that marriage is an institution between one man and one woman,” the letter states.
The congressmen go on to say that people of faith have a “moral obligation to be involved in the public square.”
Referring to the Ugandan legislation, Wolf says, “It’s certainly not a very appropriate thing to do, whether you approach it from a religious or faith issue. And it certainly is not an appropriate piece of legislation when you approach it from human rights. I think on both points, it would be a very bad thing for the Ugandan legislature to do.”
High marks for HIV/AIDS
Since early in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, many have praised Uganda for taking early action on the disease. Those efforts, plus a great deal of international support, kept infection rates lower than it was in many other African countries. So did the legislation, which takes a harsh tone for homosexuals who are HIV positive, come as a surprise?
“I was surprised,” says Wolf. “People were saying how positive things were and everything else.... Most people that have been following Africa were pretty much surprised.”
Wolf says the congressmen hope the legislation will be killed in parliament. If it passes, they call on President Museveni to veto it.