On Wednesday, January 28th, Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato was beaten to death in his home in the Mukono district outside of Kampala. Kato, advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was one of several LGBT people targeted by the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the American entertainment magazine) under a headline that read "Hang Them." According to the Irish Times, Kato's murder comes just weeks after his successful court case against the tabloid.
Kato had been a vocal opponent of a proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda that has stoked controversy around the globe. The bill, authored by Ugandan MP David Bahati, would make homosexual activity punishable by life imprisonment, mandating the death penalty for repeat offenders.
The bill was introduced months after an anti-gay conference in Kampala in March 2009, featuring Scott Lively, Don Schmierer of Exodus International, and "ex-gay" counselor Caleb Brundidge. According to the New York Times, Schmierer claimed that he had nothing to do with Kato's killing and lamented that he is being "bludgeoned" by opponents. Evangelical preacher Lou Engle has also received criticism for promoting anti-gay attitudes in Uganda, as depicted in the documentary Missionaries of Hate.
Human Rights Watch has urged Ugandan authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation of Kato's murder, beseeching the Ugandan government to protect LGBT citizens from violence. Amnesty International is also calling on authorities to ensure a "credible investigation" of the killing. The Advocate reports that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have condemned the murder, emphasizing the importance of human rights for LGBT persons.
Kato's murder serves as a reminder of the tragic consequences of homophobia. The international community must condemn homophobic violence and take to task those who promote homophobic attitudes.
UPDATE #1: Reuters is reporting that a scuffle broke out at David Kato's funeral in Mukono after the pastor conducting the service made anti-gay comments. (Hat tip to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters.)
UPDATE #2: The Advocate is reporting that a suspect has been arrested in relation to Kato's murder.
UPDATE #3: Mariana van Zeller, the Vanguard correspondent who reported on Uganda in Missionaries of Hate, issued a statement about the murder of David Kato.
For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
BBC News: Obituary: Uganda gay activist David Kato
Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan LGBT Advocate Murdered; Had Been Named by "Hang Them" Tabloid
Truth Wins Out: Ugandan Gay Activist Murdered in Cold Blood
Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Did Scott Lively's Homophobic "Nuclear Bomb" Cause a Death in Uganda
RH Reality Check: Prominent Human Rights Advocate Murdered in Uganda
Religion Dispatches: Recounting (Again) the Role of American Religious Activists in Uganda Anti-Gay Violence
Religion Dispatches: Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Murdered, U.S. Evangelicals Must Take Responsibility
Politics Plus: Supply-Side Jesus Has Death Panels Too!