As America closes a month of gay pride celebrations, international LGBT rights are still in the Dark Ages in very bright places. We can start with Uganda.
Thanks to a technological communications revolution, the world is a much smaller place. We witness Iraqi executions on cell phones, and the Internet takes us across the globe in seconds. What happens a continent away is on our laptop seconds later. We can’t look the other way and play pretend.
There are places where the gay community still needs to be heard. One of those is at East 42nd Street on First Avenue in New York City, by the East River. It is called United Nations Plaza.
As a representative of the nation’s gay press, the South Florida Gay News today condemns and censures the United Nations for permitting Uganda’s Sam Kutesa to be selected as the new head of the UN General Assembly. It’s a damn, shocking, shame.
Given that 81 countries on this globe still outlaw homosexuality, it’s easy to see why being Ugandan would not automatically disqualify him from such a prestigious post. Still, given that the head of the General Assembly represents all countries, it’s a position that the LGBT community should care enough about to be heard.
It has been estimated that there are nearly 500,000 men and women in the Ugandan gay community. They have absolutely no legal protections. Both male and female homosexuality is illegal. Torture and executions have occurred, and authorities have looked the other way. It is not a gay friendly place to be. Many places in Africa are not, and that is precisely why the African delegation had no problem choosing Kutesa.
A special shout out is warranted for HBO’s new host, John Oliver, for his feature last weekend on just how backward Uganda really is. More importantly, Oliver re-publicized and documented how American religious zealots have generated anti-gay bigotry in Uganda. Yes, evangelicals like Scott Lively have even testified before Uganda’s parliament, calling for a hard line on homosexuality.
As Oliver notes, “This means that Africa isn’t just where we send our losing team’s Super Bowl shirts, it’s also now where we send our losing political philosophies.”
As we celebrate American independence this weekend, thankfully we are also celebrating marriage equality in dozens of states. In our America, we have seen sodomy laws fall and gay communities rise.
America’s LGBT communities are growing exponentially in number and size, in power and strength. We are open, we are out, and we are proud. We are heard, and we have a place at the table. Our name is called in NFL drafts, and can be selected for U.S. District court judicial appointments. We can be proud of who we are. But we should never be comfortable breathing air in a world that is not universally free.
Homophobia is a fear which breeds hate. We have gone a long way to ending it here at home. We have seen our share of martyrs, from Harvey Milk to Matthew Shepherd. In other countries, darker places, martyrs are still being made. Let’s do what we can while we are here to bring them the independence and freedom we now cherish everyday.
Let the United Nations General Assembly know that we say ‘NO’ to an anti gay leader as their spokesperson. Let’s start an international petition right here in South Florida. Why not?
Today, July 2, 2014, is the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. It was a law that came about one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed American slaves. The Civil War brought an end to slavery, but not discrimination. It took years. It does still. Let’s issue our own proclamation against hate, starting here, starting now.
Our brutal world still needs taming. Terrorists abduct children in Nigeria, slaughter innocents in Syria, and execute gays in Uganda. In Eastern Europe, LGBT brothers and sisters are still persecuted by churches and governments like Russia foster hate rather than hope.
Let’s not forget that Stonewall was a riot, not a street party for boy dancers on floats. It was an assertion that gays and lesbians would not settle into second-class citizenry. It was a statement that we would stand up and be counted. It was our Rosa Parks moment, but we are not done yet. We still have work to do at home.
Here in America, teenagers are still bullied. ENDA has not got through Congress. LGBT employees do not have equal rights in hundreds of communities, and Neanderthal city commissioners, like the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, still oppose marriage equality.
Stonewall is not over, and July 4 is not for everyone, just yet. But we have the world at our fingertips, and we can let everyone from Fort Lauderdale city commissioners to global leaders in world assemblies know that our voices can and will be heard.
Stand up and be counted.