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Vigil Held in New York for Slain Ugandan Gay Rights Activist

A member of the Ugandan gay community carries a picture of murdered gay activist David Kato during his funeral near Mataba, January 28, 2011.

Dozens of people turned out in freezing temperatures in New York City Thursday to pay tribute to a Ugandan gay rights activist who was brutally slain last week.

The vigil began near the United Nations and then moved to outside the Ugandan mission.

Attendees expressed anger and pain over David Kato’s death and called for his killer to be brought to justice. Kato, a well known and outspoken advocacy officer for the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda was brutally beaten to death with a hammer.

At the vigil, Vitto Carmine said he wants answers about Kato's killing and feels the anti-gay sentiment has roots in the United States.

"Hate kills. And we as Americans need to wake up to the fact that the radical conservatism that is infecting Uganda is our fault," Carmine said. "It is the Christian Right’s fault for feeding this kind of hatred in Uganda."

Before his murder, Kato told reporters that he had received death threats and had sued a local paper after it published his photo and home address under a banner that read "hang them", referring to gay activists.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and Parliament is considering a bill proposing the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

Thursday, the Ugandan authorities said Kato was killed by a male prostitute after reneging on an agreement to pay for sex.

One speaker told the vigil Kato’s slaying should be a call to action by the international community.

"To our LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] family in Uganda we say right now that we will stand with you," the speaker said.

After the vigil, the demonstrators delivered a letter to the Ugandan Permanent Representative at the United Nations calling for Kampala to "immediately denounce David's murder." The letter was signed by groups such as Amnesty International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.