On May 16th, Human Rights Watch announced that Ugandan MP David Bahati and American pastor Scott Lively were the top 2011 candidates for the Homophobia Hall of Shame. Given the role of both men in promoting homophobia in Uganda, this is unsurprising but welcome news.
To provide background, David Bahati authored a draconian anti-gay bill in Uganda which would mandate severe sanctions for same-sex sexual activity. In interviews with western journalists (including NPR and Rachel Maddow), Bahati has promoted the dangerous stereotype that gays and lesbians allegedly "recruit" minors into homosexuality.
As journalists, filmmakers, and bloggers have noted, several American evangelical leaders have either promoted homophobia in Uganda or maintained ties to homophobic Ugandan leaders, creating a heated cultural context for the anti-gay bill. Scott Lively, the author of The Pink Swastika who has a long history of homophobic rhetoric, was one of them. In 2009, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer (a board member of the "ex-gay" group Exodus International) spoke at an Ugandan conference on the "gay agenda", soon after which Bahati introduced his anti-gay bill. Lively claimed that the draconian bill was "a step in the right direction". In an interview with Vanguard correspondent Mariana von Zeller, Lively admitted that he helped start the so-called "pro-family" movement in Uganda, painting an ominous picture of LGBT people in the west.
Let's applaud Human Rights Watch for taking Bahati and Lively to task for promoting homophobia in Uganda, and for drawing attention to the global networks that promote anti-gay bigotry. Let's also applaud the advocates who promote equal rights and dignity for LGBT people worldwide.