What’s the Latest Development?
Last week, activists representing Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) met American evangelical pastor Scott Lively in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts, seeking restitution for damages they say were caused by Lively’s campaign of anti-homosexuality speeches held across their country. Even though SMUG is a foreign organization, the case was able to go forward because of an obscure 1789 law, the Alien Tort Statute, that since 1980 has been used in cases involving human rights abuses committed by Americans outside the US. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is representing SMUG in court.
What’s the Big Idea?
Shortly after Lively’s last speech, which took place in 2009 before a group of Ugandan members of parliament, legislation was proposed that included the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. The bill didn’t pass, but it has been unofficially enforced by police and ordinary citizens since, threatening the safety of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. A new version of the bill, minus the death penalty stipulation, was introduced at the end of 2012. CCR lawyer Pamela Spees says, “[Lively] is not a passer-through in Uganda. He’s…very invested in [a] particular outcome and he is helping them get there.” For his part, Lively says that he simply expressed his views, and that doing so is allowed under the First Amendment.
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