Wednesday, January 16, 2013

U.S. Law Suit Against Uganda Anti-LGBT Laws – Update

Last Monday (Jan. 7) there was a hearing held in Springfield MA against a U.S. citizen who is backing the Uganda law to make being LGBT punishable by life in prison.

There have been a number of articles in the news about the hearing, Mass Live reported that…
SPRINGFIELD – A lawsuit pitting Ugandan gay activists against local evangelist Scott Lively drew more than 150 people to U.S. District Court Monday for arguments inside and outside the courthouse.

After Judge Michael A. Ponsor spent 90 minutes questioning lawyers for both sides on Lively’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, dozens of protesters holding signs gathered on the courthouse steps to denounce the pastor just several blocks from his “Holy Grounds” coffee house on State Street.
Lively’s supporters, though outnumbered, also carried signs and engaged in mostly polite discussions with the other side.
The judge had this to say about the case,
Summing up the legal issues, Ponsor said the case involved both Lively’s free speech protection against the rights of sexual minorities to equal protection under the law.

In particular, Ponsor said he was troubled by the lack of specifics in the lawsuit linking Lively’s anti-gay activities to acts of oppression against gays in Uganda.

“I’m frankly struggling to see what behavior beyond expressive behavior” of Lively violated federal law, the judge said.

The plaintiffs, the judge added, would be strengthened by a “more concrete example of, for lack of a better term, misbehavior to justify continuation of the lawsuit.”

Ponsor also expressed skepticism about Lively’s request to dismiss the suit before trial, noting that federal law sets a high legal threshold for throwing out cases.
Religious Dispatches had this to say about the hearing…
Lively, who is widely credited with “inspiring” the “kill the gays” bill that Parliament could consider in February, is represented by the Liberty Counsel, a conservative evangelical legal group affiliated with Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, and itself home to some of the most anti-gay activists in the public arena. Lively’s lawyer, Harry Mihet, said in an online conversation hosted by The Huffington Post on Tuesday that the case is “ridiculous and frivolous.” He echoed claims that Liberty Counsel has been making that the lawsuit is an effort to silence Lively and others for expressing their personal beliefs about homosexuality.
Liberty Counsel which is part of the university founded by Jerry Falwell, is the organization that is trying to block the law that prohibits children younger than 18 from undergoing treatment to "cure" them of homosexuality. This case revolves around two issues free speech and the Alien Tort Statute; the Advocate explained the case this way…
Monday's arguments centered around Lively's motion to dismiss the case on the basis of First Amendment guarantees of free speech. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights advanced the argument that Lively's decade-long collaboration with religious and political leaders in Uganda to oppress LGBT people there is punishable under the Alien Tort Statute, which gives "survivors of egregious human rights abuses, wherever committed, the right to sue the perpetrators in the United States," according to the Center for Justice and Accountability.
A New York Times article said that,
One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.
Mr. Lively and Mr. Brundidge have made similar remarks in interviews or statements issued by their organizations. But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it. He even wrote on his blog in March that someone had likened their campaign to “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” Later, when confronted with criticism, Mr. Lively said he was very disappointed that the legislation was so harsh.
Therein lies the crux of the issue, did Mr. Lively merely go to Uganda to give talks or did he know that he would be lobbying for the Uganda law. The first is protected by free speech but the second is inferring with the internal politics of a country by a US citizen which is prohibit by the Alien Tort Statute.

Here is a video from outside the courthouse…

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