Ugandan LGBT activists are suing an anti-gay American evangelist for playing a role in formulating the African country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
On Wednesday, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit against Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively, on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).
The suit alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the formulation of anti-gay legislation and policies aimed at revoking the fundamental rights of LGBT people constitutes persecution.
The Ugandan parliament’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill provides the death penalty for homosexuality, prison for failing to turn in someone suspected of being gay, and criminalises advocacy around LGBT rights.
“U.S evangelical leaders like Scott Lively have actively and intensively worked to eradicate any trace of LGBT advocacy and identity,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of SMUG.
“Particularly damaging has been his claim that children are at risk because of our existence. His influence has been incredibly harmful and destructive for LGBT Ugandans fighting for their rights. We have to stop people like Scott Lively from helping to codify and give legal cover to hatred.”
In March 2009, Lively, along with two other American evangelical leaders, headlined a three-day conference in Uganda intended to expose the “gay movement” as an “evil institution” and a danger to children.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill emerged one month later with provisions that reflected Lively’s input. He has said he supports criminalising LGBT advocacy elsewhere and has worked with religious and political leaders in Russia, Moldova and Latvia to that end.
He has stated that he has spoken on the topic of homosexuality in almost 40 countries and advises that “the easiest way to discourage ‘gay pride’ parades and other homosexual advocacy is to make such activity illegal.” An anti-gay bill that prevents speech and advocacy around LGBT rights in St. Petersburg, Russia, went into effect on Sunday.
Lively told The New York Times on Wednesday that he was unaware of the suit.
“That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue. There’s actually no grounds for litigation on this,” he said.
The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek civil remedies in U.S. courts. This is the first known ATS case related to persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.