President Obama is “deeply disappointed” that Uganda’s government will soon enact a bill criminalizing homosexuality.
The bill, which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said he will sign, calls for life imprisonment for people convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.”
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda,” Obama said in a written statement on Sunday.
“It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”
The bill was first introduced in the East African nation's parliament in 2009, and originally called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts. In December, lawmakers passed a modified version of the legislation that downgraded the harshest punishment to life in prison.
A punishment of life imprisonment would apply to “serial offenders” and people with HIV who engage in sexual acts with members of the same gender, regardless of whether or not the sex was consensual, according to Amnesty International.
Uganda’s president originally planned not to sign the bill, though his concerns were not based in a desire to protect the rights of gay and lesbian people. Instead, he said that they are “sick people” who should be helped, not punished.
On Saturday, however, he reversed course and vowed to sign the bill.
Museveni claimed that 14 “medical experts” had told him that homosexuality was a behavioral issue, not a scientific or medical condition.
"The question I put to them was, are there people born like this?” he said, according to CNN. “Now they are saying they are no such people."