The beating death of the leading gay-rights activist in Uganda puts the heat on U.S. anti-gay activist Scott Lively
David Kato Kisule, the leading gay-rights activist in what may be the world's most virulently anti-gay nation, Uganda, was beaten to death with a hammer in his home outside Kampala on Jan. 26. The murder happened just three months after a local magazine, Rolling Stone, published the names of 100 "homos" under the banner "Hang Them!" — with Kato's photo prominently displayed on the front page.
Scornful attention immediately turned to the contingent of American anti-gay religious crusaders led by Scott Lively, who made a widely criticized visit to Uganda in March 2009 to stir up support for a proposed law that would impose the death penalty or life in prison for certain homosexual acts. (Existing law in Uganda subjects those convicted of homosexual acts to imprisonment for up to 14 years.)
Lively's presentation at an anti-gay conference was laden with incendiary slanders of gay people — that they prey on children, that they "brainwash" people to keep them from becoming heterosexual, and that they seek to destroy traditional marriage. Lively also said that gays helped orchestrate the Holocaust as Hitler's most loyal and vicious servants — a theme of his debunked book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.
Kato's murder threatened to bring down a fresh cascade of international condemnation on Uganda just as its Feb. 18 national elections approached, with international aid hanging in the balance. But the condemnations of Lively and of Uganda's atmosphere of retribution against gays were abruptly muted a week later when a houseguest of Kato's, Enoch Sydney Nsubuga Balibagga, confessed to the murder. Nsubuga, described by police as a "known thief" (and, in one report, as a prostitute), reportedly claimed that Kato had agreed to pay him for sex but then did not.
Kato reportedly had bailed Nsubuga out of jail earlier and had allowed Nsubuga to stay at his home.
The arrest took the heat off Lively, although gay-rights activists remained suspicious of the account of the crime put forth by Ugandan authorities. According to the website AfricanActivist.org, Nsubuga's scheduled trial was postponed twice, though officials gave no explanation.
Kato reportedly had been beaten numerous times since coming out openly as a gay man, including, allegedly, at the hands of police. Animosity toward gays in Uganda runs so high that the Anglican priest invited to preside over Kato's funeral insulted the dead man — shouting that Kato was worse than a beast, because animals at least know the difference between a male and a female — and then refused to complete the ceremony, instead calling on gays to "repent," according to media reports.
In videos of his presentation in Uganda, Lively is seen stating that gays are "looking for other people to prey upon, and that when they see someone from a broken home, it's like they have a flashing neon sign over their head … male homosexuality has not traditionally been adult to adult, it's been adult to teenager. … The gay movement is an evil institution. The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with the culture of sexual promiscuity."
As of April, the harsh 2009 anti-gay legislation — with the death penalty provision intact — was still alive in the current session of the Ugandan Parliament. Sponsor David Bahati reportedly is willing to consider bargaining to remove the death-penalty provision.