White House blasts Ugandan anti-gay bill

The White House on Monday blasted Uganda's controversial new anti-gay legislation, calling the bill "a step backward."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni "regrettably" chose to endorse the legislation, which strengthens penalties against homosexuals, "instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights."

"President Obama has said this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS," Carney said. "We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world."

Later Monday, Carney hinted that the U.S. could revoke some of the $400 million in aid provided annually to Uganda. Carney said that in light of the decision to sign the bill into law, the United States would "undertake a review of its relationship with Uganda."

Under the legislation, signed on Monday, penalties for homosexual acts, which were already illegal, were strengthened. An original draft of the bill included clauses that would have carried death penalties for "aggravated homosexuality," including acts in which one person was infected with HIV, had sex with minors or was a "serial" offender, according to Amnesty International.

In the final version of the bill, convictions carry life prison sentences. The legislation also calls for jail time for those who counsel gays and lesbians, and includes provisions penalizing human rights groups that provide services to LGBT individuals.

In an interview with CNN, Museveni said he wasn't concerned how the bill would be perceived in the West.

"If the West doesn't want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space here to live by ourselves and do business with other people."

"We see how you do things, the families, how they're organized. All the things, we see them, we keep quiet," he said. "It's not our country, maybe you like it. So there's now an attempt at social imperialism -- to impose social values of one group on our society."

Last year, Obama criticized a Russian anti-homosexuality law that banned gay "propaganda."

"Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation than you’ve been seeing in Russia," Obama said. "I’ve spoken out against that, not just with respect to Russia, but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them but we have a strong disagreement on this issue."

--This report was updated at 2:24 p.m.

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