Exactly one year ago, David Kato, a longtime advocate and friend, was bludgeoned to death in his home in the middle of the day. He was murdered just days after he had won a court case against a Ugandan newspaper that had published his photo — along with those of 99 other alleged supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality — next to a noose and the directive “Hang Them.”
As the head of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an umbrella LGBT-advocacy organization based in Kampala, David had spent years engaged in international wrangling over an anti-gay bill in the Ugandan Parliament that called for the execution of gay and lesbian people who are open about their sexual orientation. Despite David’s efforts, and despite some international outcry, that bill is still pending.
In Uganda, too often anti-gay politicians and religious leaders condemn, persecute and inspire violence against the LGBT community while stifling the voices of people like David, who are simply trying to stand up for themselves. Those anti-gay strategies lead to harassment, physical attacks and, for some of our LGBT brothers and sisters, death.
Unfortunately, the practice of suppressing the voices of fair-minded people is not completely unfamiliar to African Americans. Here we are in another election year in the United States, and this time, conservative voices are trying to silence black opposition with voter-ID laws that unfairly target minority and lower-income voters.
Conservative forces are working diligently to disenfranchise people of color, or to “block the vote,” in the words of the NAACP. According to a recent report by the civil rights group, some states that saw unprecedented levels of electoral participation by black and Latino voters in the 2008 presidential election are now being targeted for voting restrictions. The restrictive measures include enforcing the aforementioned photo-ID requirements, as well as increasing disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions.
At the same time, those on the far right are once again attempting to use the backs of gay and transgender people to launch their careers. Religious forces that align themselves with the most conservative elements on the political landscape promote constitutional bans on marriage for gay couples, fight tooth and nail against anti-discrimination proposals and would rescind equal protections for thousands of families.