Thursday, April 15, 2010

Can Russ Feingold Help Save The Ugandan LGBT Community?


Russ Feingold in Uganda

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) wrote a resolution urging the Ugandan government to abandon its efforts to enact one of the worst homophobic pieces of legislation anywhere in the world, a law that would, in fact, include outlawing political organizations, broadcasters and publishers that advocate on behalf of gay rights and the death penalty for anyone repeatedly engaging in gay sex. Feingold's resolution, which was co-sponsored by radical right Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, passed unanimously Tuesday night. (A companion bill, introduced by Howard Berman in the House, awaits action.)

Interestingly, even the overt gay-haters from the C-Street cult that encouraged Uganda to enact the bill, voted for Feingold's proposal-- including Jim DeMint (R-SC). Other nations where homosexuality is criminalized and were gays face the death penalty are barbaric and culturally backward states like Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Idaho, and Sudan. “I am glad that so many political, religious and civic leaders in Uganda and around the world have spoken out against this hateful and dangerous bill before the Ugandan Parliament. Sadly, this legislation is just one example of actions taken around the world to restrict the rights of people just because of their gender or sexual orientation. We need to speak out consistently against all such discrimination. The Senate’s passage of this resolution begins to move us in that direction, and I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to continue to address this issue,” said Feingold, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa. His resolution:
Calling on members of the Parliament in Uganda to reject the proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill," and for other purposes.

Whereas a bill introduced on October 14, 2009, by a member of Parliament in Uganda would expand penalties for homosexuality to include the death penalty and requires citizens to report information about homosexuality to the police or face imprisonment;

Whereas many countries criminalize homosexuality, and in some countries, such as Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, the penalty for homosexuality includes the death penalty;

Whereas the United States, in seeking to promote the core American principles of equality and "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," has long championed the universality of human rights;

Whereas religious leaders in the United States, along with representatives from the Vatican and the Anglican Church, have stated that laws criminalizing homosexuality are unjust; and

Whereas the people and Government of the United States recognize that such laws undermine our commitment to combating HIV/AIDS globally through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by stigmatizing and criminalizing vulnerable communities: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) calls on members of the Parliament in Uganda to reject the ‘‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’’ recently proposed in that country;

(2) urges the governments of all countries to reject and repeal similar criminalization laws; and

(3) encourages the Secretary of State to closely monitor human rights abuses that occur because of sexual orientation and to encourage the repeal or reform of laws such as the proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" in Uganda that permit such abuses.

Feingold is a remarkable guy-- a really one-of-a-kind character who certainly marches to the beat of his own drum. When he first ran (in 1992) in beat a right-wing extremist, Senator Bob Kasten, 53-46%. He had a closer call in 1998 against Mark Neumann, which he won 51-48%. Last time (2004) he beat Tim Michels 55-44%. There's been some speculation that popular former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson might be able to beat him. Today Thompson decided he won't be challenging Feingold after all. Great news! Feingold, though, says he was looking forward to an issues-oriented debate with Thompson, who was savaged when he appeared at the Wisconsin Republican activists meet-up today:

"I’m disappointed that Secretary Thompson decided not to get in the ring. I’m sure there will now be talk about other candidates getting in this race, but it’s my hope that the election can now be focused where it should be - on the issues important to the people of Wisconsin and who will be an independent voice for them in Washington, working hard to move our state forward."

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