Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively

At a Glance

Current Status 

In discovery. Summary judgment briefing set for fall 2015.

Date Filed: 

March 14, 2012

Co-Counsel 

Jeena Shah, Dorsey & Whitney, Sasson Turnbull Ryan & Hoose

Client 

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)

Case Description 

SMUG v. Lively is a federal lawsuit on behalf of a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBTI advocacy groups in Uganda against Scott Lively, a U.S.-based anti-gay extremist, for his role in the persecution of LGBTI people in Uganda, in particular his active participation in the conspiracy to strip away their fundamental rights. The case is part of CCR’s cutting edge international human rights work and groundbreaking efforts to protect and expand rights under the area of law related to the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and continues CCR's historic early work defending LGBTI rights.

CCR works closely with our allies at SMUG to support their work and hold U.S.-based anti-gay activists like Lively accountable.

This is the first ATS case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as a crime against humanity. The United States Supreme Court has affirmed the use of the ATS as a remedy for serious violations of international law that are widely accepted and clearly defined. Persecution is defined in international law as the "intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity." Lively – a U.S.-based attorney, author, and self-described world-leading expert on the “gay movement” – has traveled to Uganda and other countries, including Russia, and played a key role in the effort to strip LGBTI people of fundamental rights, including the rights to free expression, association, and assembly. 

Case Timeline

April 9, 2015

Sexual Minorities Uganda files motion asking court to subpoena Martin Ssempa

April 9, 2015

Sexual Minorities Uganda files motion asking court to subpoena Martin Ssempa

December 5, 2013

Lively files petition for writ of mandamus

December 5, 2013

Lively files petition for writ of mandamus

On December 5, 2013, Lively files a petition requesting that the First Circuit Court of Appeals issue a writ of mandamus, a type of relief granted only in extraordinary circumstances, directing the District Court to vacate its order denying Lively’s motion to dismiss. The next day, his legal team also file a motion with the District Court to stay the case, pending the First Circuit’s review of the writ petition. The District Court denies the defendant’s motion for a stay, allowing the discovery phase to proceed. Almost a year later, on December 4, 2014, the First Circuit issues a judgment denying Lively's petition for a writ.
November 20, 2013

Lively files his answer to SMUG’s complaint

November 20, 2013

Lively files his answer to SMUG’s complaint

Per the court's scheduling order, Lively files his responses to the allegations in SMUG's complaint.

Fall 2013

Lively files series of motions seeking leave to file appeal of order denying his motion to dismiss

Fall 2013

Lively files series of motions seeking leave to file appeal of order denying his motion to dismiss

On September 6, 2013, Lively's attorneys move to have the District Court certify an interlocutory appeal of its order on the motion to dismiss. The District Court denies his motion for certification, noting that an interim appeal would be improper given the need for discovery and the lack of a substantial question of law that would justify review before the appellate court. Lively files another motion, asking the District Court to reconsider its order denying certification for an interlocutory appeal. The judge promptly denies Lively's motion for reconsideration, ruling in favor of SMUG. The parties subsequently appear before the District Court for a scheduling conference, on November 6, 2013, to set the timeline for the pre-trial phase of the case.
August 14, 2013
Court denies Lively's motion to dismiss
August 14, 2013
Court denies Lively's motion to dismiss

The court issues a memorandum and order denying the defendant's motion to dismiss and referring the case for pre-trial scheduling. In a historic decision, the judge rules that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law.

April 2013

Lively files notice of supplemental authority in support of his motion to dismiss; in turn, SMUG files response to defendant's notice regarding Kiobel

April 2013

Lively files notice of supplemental authority in support of his motion to dismiss; in turn, SMUG files response to defendant's notice regarding Kiobel

January 7, 2013
Court hears arguments on Lively's motion to dismiss
January 7, 2013
Court hears arguments on Lively's motion to dismiss

Supporters and allies pack the court for oral argument on Lively's motion to dismiss the case. Lively's attorneys argue that his activity in Uganda is protected under the First Amendment. Pamela Spees of CCR argues that Lively’s conduct went well beyond the exercise of his First Amendment rights when he began to work to criminalize organizations like SMUG and to remove fundamental civil rights from LGBTI people, including their right to free speech and assembly.

A delegation of Ugandan LGBTI activists attends the hearing alongside Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition of Western Massachusetts, who organize a rally in front of the courthouse.

May 2012

Parties file briefs on Lively's motion to stay case pending SCOTUS decision in Kiobel

May 2012

Parties file briefs on Lively's motion to stay case pending SCOTUS decision in Kiobel

Represented by Liberty Counsel, Lively files a motion to stay the case pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, a case also brought under the ATS. SMUG files its opposition to the motion, and the court subsequently denies Lively's motion to stay the case on June 1, 2012, ordering him to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint.

March 14, 2012

SMUG files case against Scott Lively 

March 14, 2012

SMUG files case against Scott Lively 

Filed in the Springfield Division of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the complaint alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the conspiracy to strip away fundamental rights from LGBTI persons, constitutes persecution. This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) suit seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.