President Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast and condemned a proposed law severely criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda.
The president faced a groundswell of criticism before speaking at the annual event partially because of the legislation's connection to the organizer of the breakfast.
"We may disagree about gay marriage, but we can surely agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are whether it's here in the United States or as Hillary mentioned more extremely in odious laws proposed most recently," Obama said at the event on Thursday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who delivered the keynote address, said "In the Obama administration, we are looking take on religious discrimination and violations of human rights.
"But we are also standing up for girls and women, who too often in the name of religion are denied basic human rights. And we are standing up for gays and lesbians, who deserve to be treated as full human beings," she continued. "I recently called President [Yoweri] Museveni, who I have known through the prayer breakfast, and expressed the strongest concern about a law being considered in the parliament in Uganda."
A chorus of gay-rights groups and organizations opposed to church-state ties called on Obama to denounce the law pushed by Ugandan legislator David Bahati, who organizes the National Prayer Breakfast in his own country.
The groups say some members of The Family or The Fellowship, a conservative Christian group which organizes the breakfast, back legislation in Uganda that would criminalize homosexuality, with the death penalty possible in some cases. A spokesman for The Fellowship has said that the group does not support the bill.