One of the best things about going on a cruise, was being completely cut off from outside communication. No phones, no Internet, and no news (in whatever format(s) you use to stay informed) for the duration of the trip. Or, at least for the time spent out of US cell plan range. Which, really, was from the time the boat left the dock, until the day we returned. Hey, at 75 cents (or more) a minute, there just wasn't anything so important that couldn't wait until we were back from vacation. Sure, I could have stayed up to date by watching CNN, but who does that when they're on vacation? [Deep inhale] Ah, it was blissful ignorance.
Yes, it was 7 days of blissful ignorance, wrapped in the cozy warmth of LGBT acceptance, female energy and grrl power. Which only made our return back to reality a rather harsh trip. I had almost forgotten that just two days before we left for vacation, 51% of Maine voters had voted to ban gay marriage. Thus losing another gay marriage state in Prop 8 fashion. Then today/yesterday, the New York Senate voted down gay marriage. The gay marriage bill had passed the House, and the Governor was ready to sign it, but it only got 24 of the 32 votes needed to pass in the Senate.
I'm a bit surprised the bill didn't pass, actually. For the last few years, the buzz has been that New York was on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage, and would likely be the next state to do so. I mean, who'd of thought Iowa would have equal marriage rights before New York. But what would I know about the pulse of New York state? I can barely keep up with my own great state, Indiana. These losses (Maine and New York) are a little discouraging. Right now it seems like every time gay rights takes a step forward in the US, we end up taking an equal step back. And hey, while I'm thinking about it, what the heck happened to the ENDA, which many claim should be our real focus in the fight for LGBT rights. Not marriage rights.
But at times like this, when I start getting frustrated and discouraged, I remind myself that I'm lucky to live where I do, and in the time that I live in. There were many before us who suffered and who paved they way for us to have the freedom to live pretty openly out lives. There are those who live in countries who do not have such freedom. There are those who live in countries like: Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by 100 lashes, or even death; Gambia, whose President threatened to behead all homosexuals; or Uganda, where the government is considering a bill that could make homosexuality punishable with a life prison sentence, and in some cases by death. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but this bill, the Anti Homosexuality Bill, has way sharper and much bigger teeth than the current law. Not only would it be a crime to engage in consensual homosexual acts, but also to act with intent to engage in such acts. What's even worse is that the law wouldn't just target gays, but also supporters of LGBT rights. Showing any support, or speaking in any manor of support, could carry a 3-7 year prison sentence. There is also a 3-7 (if I remember correctly) year prison sentence for knowing someone is gay and not turning them in within 24 hours of discovering this information.
This proposed law is beyond appalling in and of itself, but then to find that out the bill may have ties to a "secretive" American Evangelical group called The Family, whose membership includes several US Congressmen...well I don't even know what to say about that. The bill's author, Parliament Member, Hon David Bahati is a member of The Family. As well, there are some ties between The Family and the Ugandan President. For in depth details about The Family, and its ties to the Ugandan government, there was a great Fresh Air show about this a few days ago, as well a segment or two on the Rachel Maddow Show. The bill has also been endorsed by a Ugandan pastor, Martin Ssempa, who is well known in the American Evangelical circles, and who has made several appearances at Rick Warren's church. When asked about the bill, Rick Warren said he doesn't think it's his place to interfere or comment on the laws of other countries. Now I don't know about you, but refusal to comment on the bill reads to me like support for it.
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton spoke out against the bill on Monday, the day before World AIDS Day. It seemed implied that the future of US funding could be tied to the outcome of the bill (at least that was my interpretation). I'm glad someone from the US Government spoke up to condemn this bill, but I think it's going to take more than one condemnation. And since this bill also seem to have a lot of support amongst the people of Uganda, a country with a large Catholic population, I think the person who really needs to speak out against this bill is the Pope.
I don't know about you, but aside from being thoroughly beyond words for all of those who have to live in fear of the possibility of, life imprisonment, harsh physical punishment, or even death if their sexuality were discovered, I wonder what The Family would do here if they had the power write the laws as they wished. Would we spend our lives in prison? Would they sentence us to death?
For other blog posts on this topic, check out:
- U.S. Religious Rightwing and the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, by kellygrrrl at Free Range Talk
- Pastor Rick Warren Refuses To Condemn Ugandan Law Making Homosexual Acts Punishable By Death, by Amanda Terkel at Think Progress
- Cautious Hope?, by Gay Uganda
Zoe is a BlogHer Contributing Editor (Life-GLBT). She also blogs, though not much lately, her life most ordinary at gaymo.
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