In 2004, the American political-religious Right, led by Karl Rove and President Bush used the matter of Gay marriage to rob Sen. John Kerry of the Presidency. It was a successful campaign that saw 11 states pass constitutional amendments against Marriage Equality. With America engaged in two wars, the political-religious right used the matter of gay marriage as a wedge issue to distract the country from the real problems it then and still faces. The success of the political-religious rights' homophobic 2004 campaign was not lost on other would-be politicians around the world, and that has led to a new African Genocide against GLBT people.
Genocide is a heavy, overwrought word sure to arouse condemnation from the various corners of the political discussion. But dip your toes into the reality of life for GLBT people in Africa today, and reconsider. The President of Gambia has demanded that all gay people leave or they will be beheaded, which is minimally better than the proposed Ugandan law that would order a life sentence or death for those convicted of being homosexuals.
In a rare showing of bi-partisanship, President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe agreed that it was absurd to include any protections for GLBT in the new constitution. President Mugabe has described homosexuality as "a white man's disease." In Malawi, where homosexuality is outlawed, Peter Sawali was arrested for passing out posters saying "Gay Rights are Human Rights," and faces 4 years in jail.
These are not aberrant examples of extremism on the African continent. The GLBT community (or those even accused of being a homosexual) are subject to harsh penalties and death. The sudden emergence of homosexuality as a political issue there has the finger prints of many American Right politicians and faith based organizations. The African leaders learned a valuable lesson in the American 2004 election, you can persuade a whole populace that the enemy is not inequality, poverty, lack of access to health care, rampant rates of AIDS, or high infant mortality rates - it's the Gay Agenda.
Fear mongering works, thankfully in this country not for long. The United States has now emerged from the long national nightmare of the previous administration. The GLBT movement is advancing protections for marriage equality in the courts and on ballots, the country is poised to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell homophobic military exclusion policy, and perhaps on the horizon is the repeal of the inaptly named Defense of Marriage Act.
GLBT people in Africa, with the rare exception of South Africa, do not enjoy the same deepening societal acceptance. There, they face death, jail, or persecution. The shadow of the 2004 election still blocks the sun from the lives of these people. President Obama's recent condemnation of the Ugandan law that proposed the death penalty for convicted GLBT people is the beginning of the American penance to that continent's GLBT community for the dastardly work of the American political religious right in the 2004 state and federal elections. Eventually, the peoples of all nations will not be distracted by gladiators and coliseums either, and with renewed American leadership, African GLBTQ people will no longer be the straw man for lackluster leaders.