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Anti-gay pastor Scott Lively, Uganda human rights activists face off in federal court

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A federal judge heard arguments today in a case charging that homophobic pastor Scott Lively’s actions in anti-gay efforts in Uganda constitute persecution under U.S. and international law.

The lawsuit, brought by the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda, alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI people in Uganda of their fundamental human rights based solely on identity. This is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity. U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue Americans for crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the suit, the first such case brought to protect the rights of LGBTI people, on behalf Sexual Minorities Uganda.

“Coming face to face with the man who has caused us so much pain is important to me. We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda. This case is about making it clear to people who have exported their hate agenda to Uganda that their actions have a very real effect on us and they must stop,” said Pepe Julian Onziema, the Advocacy and Policy Officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda.

Lively is the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child.” Since 2002, he has traveled to Uganda, Latvia, Moldova, and other countries to consult with lawmakers and political leaders on anti-gay efforts and legislation, including the notorious the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Lively, who is represented by the Liberty Counsel, the legal arm of the university founded by Jerry Falwell, filed a motion to dismiss the case last year, arguing his activity in Uganda is protected under the First Amendment. Today, plaintiffs argued that Lively’s actions went well beyond the exercise of his First Amendment rights when he began to work in Uganda to remove fundamental civil rights from LGBTI people, including their right to free speech and assembly, and to criminalize organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda.

“Scott Lively’s role in orchestrating the deprivation of the rights of LGBTI people in Uganda has caused untold damage,” said Pamela Spees, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who argued the case today. “Persecution – the deprivation of the rights of people solely because of their identity – is a crime, and he must be held accountable for it.”

Dozens of local supporters gathered outside the courthouse before and after the hearing holding signs with sayings like “Persecution is a crime” and “Whatever happened to love thy neighbor?”

Cathy Kristofferson, co-lead of GetEQUAL Massachusetts, spoke on behalf of Springfield’s Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition at a press conference following the hearing.

“We stand today with our allies in Uganda to hold Scott Lively accountable for his persecution of LGBT people around the world,” she said.

Melanie Nathan, author of the O-blog-dee-o-blog-da blog and a frequent contributor to SDGLN, reported today that a large group of LGBT and human-rights supporters gathered outside the federal courthouse today to protest Lively. To read that report, click HERE.

Nathan has published Kristofferson's full remarks at the press conference and notes that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hero Lt. Dan Choi was among those demonstrating outside the courthouse.

For more information on Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, read the legal complaint below or visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page HERE.

SMUG Amended Complaint