WASHINGTON -- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Tuesday that he will oppose any new funding for the Uganda government until the United States reviews its relationship with the country, a vow that comes one day after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a harsh anti-gay bill into law.
"I am deeply concerned by the decision of President Museveni of Uganda to sign into law the anti-homosexuality bill," Leahy said in a statement. "I cannot support providing further funding to the Government of Uganda until the United States has undergone a review of our relationship.”
Leahy is the first lawmaker to call for halting foreign aid to Uganda, as well as the first to endorse a plan by Secretary of State John Kerry to conduct an "internal review" of the U.S.-Uganda relationship in the wake of the new law.
Homosexual acts were already illegal in Uganda, but the law stiffens the penalties, punishing people who have gay sex with up to life in prison and calling for first-time offenders to be sentenced to 14 years behind bars. The measure also originally sought the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," which was defined as repeated instances of gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a person with disabilities or someone with HIV.
"I support Secretary of State Kerry and others in calling for its immediate repeal," Leahy said. "Much of U.S. assistance to Uganda is for the people of Uganda, including those in the Ugandan LGBT community whose human rights are being so tragically violated. But we need to closely review all U.S. assistance to Uganda, including through the World Bank and other multilateral organizations."
Congress is eyeing roughly $456.3 million in foreign assistance for Uganda in FY 2014, according to foreignassistance.gov.
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