A US federal judge has ruled that the persecution of gay people is a crime against humanity and a valid basis on which to sue anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively.
The groundbreaking case has seen Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a Uganda-based coalition of LGBTI rights and advocacy groups, suing Lively over his role in fuelling anti-gay sentiment and legislation in Uganda.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2012 by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of SMUG under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek civil remedies in US courts.
This is the first known ATS case related to persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lively had asked the court to dismiss the case but Judge Michael Ponsor rejected his application and said that the lawsuit could go ahead.
“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” said Judge Ponsor.
“The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability,” he said.
The lawsuit alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI Ugandans of their fundamental human rights based solely on their identity.
His efforts most notably played a part in the introduction of Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (aka the Kill the Gays bill), which Lively helped engineer.
“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for human rights everywhere but most especially for LGBTI Ugandans who are seeking accountability from those orchestrating our persecution,” said Frank Mugisha, the director of SMUG.
Lively told The New York Times last year that the suit was “as ridiculous as it gets” and said “I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue.”
Lively has also been active in countries like Russia where a new law criminalising gay rights advocacy was recently passed. In 2007, Lively toured 50 cities in Russia recommending some of the measures that are now law.