President Obama’s Visit with Pope Francis Should Focus on LGBT Rights in Uganda

By Jess Ballance

Tomorrow, President Obama will have an audience with Pope Francis, and a rare opportunity to discuss the importance of condemning violence and persecution of the global LGBT community. As the Pope is due to travel to Uganda in coming months, a powerful joint statement from Obama and Pope Francis could go a long way in the effort to overturn Uganda’s egregious Anti-Homosexuality Act which was passed earlier this year.

Pope Francis has been changing the rhetoric of the Catholic Church when it comes to LGBT rights. In June of 2013, Pope Francis was for saying, “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” In an interview with a Catholic journal, Pope Francis also said, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

In a letter issued to the White House this week, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights encouraged President Obama to make global LGBT rights and the recent anti-gay laws in Uganda a key topic of discussion during his audience with the Pope. A joint statement from Obama and Pope Francis would show the LGBT community and human rights defenders that the Pope is taking real steps to end all forms of discrimination.

Looking forward to the Pope’s trip to Uganda, it is crucial that he raises the issue of criminalization and the need to prevent anti-LGBT violence directly with the political, religious and cultural leadership of the country. Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni recently enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act which is one of the most dangerous homophobic laws in Africa. As the persecution of LGBT people is intensifying in several African countries, it is essential that the Pope take on a more active role on this issue.

Human Rights First urges the United States to continue to demonstrate leadership on global LGBT rights by working to stop passage of further discriminatory laws and promote the protection of LGBT rights as human rights worldwide.

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Published on March 26, 2014

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