March 14, 2012, Springfield, MA and New York –Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit against Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBT advocacy groups in Uganda. The suit alleges that Lively’s involvement in anti-gay efforts in Uganda, including his active participation in the formulation of anti-gay legislation and policies aimed at revoking fundamental right from LGBT persons constitutes persecution. This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Uganda’s parliament has a pending bill, commonly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” that provides the death penalty for “homosexuality,” prison for failing to turn in someone suspected of being “homosexual,” and criminalizes advocacy around LGBT rights.
“Lively has been the man with the plan in this enterprise,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “He long ago set out a very specific and detailed methodology for stripping away the most basic human rights protections, to silence and ultimately disappear LGBT people. Unfortunately, he found willing accomplices and fertile ground in Uganda.”
Said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, “U.S evangelical leaders like Scott Lively have actively and intensively worked to eradicate any trace of LGBT advocacy and identity. Particularly damaging has been his claim that children are at risk because of our existence. His influence has been incredibly harmful and destructive for LGBT Ugandans fighting for their rights. We have to stop people like Scott Lively from helping to codify and give legal cover to hatred.”
The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill, first introduced to the Ugandan Parliament in 2009 and reintroduced in February 2012, enumerates degrees of ‘homosexuality’ and punishments ranging from imprisonment to the death penalty. The complaint filed today includes evidence of Lively’s participation in laying the groundwork for broad-based attacks on the LGBT community including portions of the bill intended to criminalize advocacy around LGBT rights as well as deprive gay activists of the right of freedom of assembly, the right of association and the right to be free from discrimination.
The bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, is a Ugandan politician and member of The Family, a powerful and secretive U.S.-based evangelical and political organization known in the U.S. for organizing an annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
Scott Lively has been working with anti-gay forces in Uganda since 2002. In March 2009, Lively, along with two other U.S. Evangelical leaders, headlined a three-day conference intended to expose the “gay movement” as an “evil institution” and a danger to children. Lively likened the effects of his advocacy to a “nuclear bomb” in Uganda and stated that he hopes it is replicated elsewhere. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill emerged one month later with provisions that reflected Lively’s input. As in Uganda, Lively aims to criminalize LGBT advocacy elsewhere and has worked with religious and political leaders in Russia, Moldova and Latvia to that end. He states he has spoken on the topic of homosexuality in almost 40 countries and advises that “the easiest way to discourage ‘gay pride’ parades and other homosexual advocacy is to make such activity illegal.” An anti-gay bill that prevents speech and advocacy around LGBT rights was passed and signed into law last week in St. Petersburg, Russia, and went into effect on Sunday.
Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows for foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek civil remedies in U.S. courts.
The lawsuit was filed in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Lively currently lives and continues his work. Upon the filing, a coalition of rights groups from Springfield marched from the federal courthouse to Lively’s coffee house, Holy Grounds, where they protested his anti-gay advocacy locally and around the world.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is a non-profit non-governmental organization that works toward achieving full legal and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda. It serves as an umbrella organization for many other sexual minority advocacy organizations in Uganda. The mission of SMUG is to lead advocates in the fight for the recognition of same sex relationships and the removal of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.