By JENNA JOHNSON
Last week was full of proud declarations of homosexuality from prominent names and an overall positive reception from the media and society.
Early in the week, University of Missouri football lineman and potential top draft for the NFL, Michael Sam, established himself as the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL.
Citing Michael Sam as a “hero,” Actress Ellen Page came out as a lesbian on Valentine’s Day during a speech she gave in Las Vegas.
Both celebrities have received much support from fans and LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign. Social media exploded with congratulations and encouragement.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill prohibiting homosexuality.
Homosexuality is already illegal in 78 countries around the world, including much of Africa and the Middle East. Seven of these countries punish homosexuality by the death penalty. In Uganda, homosexual acts are punishable by 14 years in prison. Even organizations or individuals who reach out to counsel homosexual persons can face imprisonment.
President Museveni said he was persuaded to sign the bill, not out of political, but scientific, motivations. He claimed legalizing homosexuality poses “serious public health consequences” according to his scientific advisers.
Musevini’s advisers also assert that homosexuality is an “abnormal behavior” and not something a person is born with.
In the United States, the controversy of gay marriage legalization is always in the news media. It seems to be the “will-they, won’t they” issue of the century.
Whether or not same-sex marriage is legalized in our country, maybe it’s time to pause and enjoy the freedom of expression guaranteed to us by the Constitution.
Despite overwhelming support from the LGBT community, both Page and Sam undoubtedly received a backlash from certain anti-gay groups. Unfortunate though this is, at least they never have to face imprisonment, violence, or unemployment that the few openly gay Africans struggle against.
In my opinion, how a country reacts to the homosexual community demonstrates its degree of progressiveness. The support for LGBT causes is increasing in the United States today, especially with the younger generations. Although the gay marriage controversy remains murky, almost any American would at the very least agree with a person’s individual right to be gay.
Personal opinions aside, from a legal standpoint, Americans uphold all anti-discrimination rights. The matter of whether homosexuality is a choice does not even apply, because everyone is guaranteed the right to express him or herself.
President Obama said that if Uganda’s president passes the anti-gay bill, it will complicate relations with the east African nation. President Museveni decided to push through with the law, opting to uphold the country’s “morals” despite losing international allies.
How “moral” is it to alienate, penalize,and even torture a citizen for how he/she chooses to express love?
Uganda’s government’s behavior demonstrates unacceptable treatment of not just to the gay community, but any group. When this kind of expression is severely punished, it becomes an issue of human rights and dignity.
It’s too soon to tell how relations with Kenya will pan out after the bill passes. However, it seems from the outcry of international responses that most of the world is ready to defend the homosexual community and freedom of expression.