Obama to Kenyan president: gay discrimination like racism


President Obama speaking at Saturday’s press conference

In a bold move, America’s President Obama has unequivocally told Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta that justifying discrimination against gay people is similar to defending slavery.

Obama spoke out for LGBT equality at a joint press conference with Kenyatta in Nairobi on Saturday; described by CNN as him “lecturing” the Kenyan leader.

“With respect to the rights of gays and lesbians, I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this,” stated Obama as Kenyatta watched.

“I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

“And I say that recognising that there may be people who have different religious or cultural beliefs, but the issue is how does the state operate relative to people.”

Obama continued: “If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.

“And when a government gets in a habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. As an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.”

“And there are all sorts of rationalisations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crowing and slavery. And they were wrong,” concluded the president.


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

In response, the Kenyan leader dismissed the issue as being unimportant. “The fact of the matter is Kenya and the US share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families…

“But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept. It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept,” Kenyatta said.

“This is why I repeatedly say, for Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue. We want to focus on other areas that are day to day for our people,” explained Kenyatta,  implying that local LGBT people are not part of Kenyan society.

Obama’s comments ended speculation about whether he would address the issue of LGBT rights during his official visit to his father’s homeland.

Anti-gay politicians and clerics in Kenya had warned Obama not to speak out in support of gay and lesbian rights during his trip. Some local LGBT activists also feared a backlash should he directly speak out in support of LGBT equality.

Gay sex is illegal in Kenya, with penalties of between five to 14 years’ imprisonment.

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