Speed Read: Continents of difference

UGANDA: ‘DO WE KILL THEM?’ Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni wrote an eight-page letter to the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, calling into question the passage of a bill that calls for life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality. While Museveni’s letter makes clear why he did not sign the bill, he is far from supportive of civil rights for gay people. Describing gays as “abnormal,” he declares, “The question at the core of the debate of homosexuality is; what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?” wrote Museveni. The December 28 letter came to light in an article January 17 by the Ugandan newspaper, the Daily Monitor.

PUTIN FANS CONTROVERSY: Russian President Vladimir Putin poured fuel on the anti-gay controversy Friday, saying gays visiting Russia for the Olympics can feel at ease as long as they “leave children in peace, please.” In addition to that remark, and its underlying insinuation that gay people harm children, he said the U.S. was in “no position to criticize us,” given “there are a lot of folks in the U.S.” who share the hostile view about gay people and given the history of “certain dark-skinned citizens of the U.S.” engaging in protests at the 1968 Olympics.

A DIFFERENT CONTINENT: In a speech Friday to clarify his administration’s policy on electronic surveillance for national security purposes, President Obama made clear what the U.S. won’t do. “I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent,” said the president, “nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.”

TRANS VICTORY FIRST CIRCUIT: The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Friday issued a decision saying that the state of Massachusetts prison system could not deny sex reassignment surgery to a prisoner with severe gender identity disorder. Michelle Kosilek had already been receiving hormone therapy, psychological counseling, hair removal, and female clothing and makeup from the prison, where she is serving a life sentence for murdering her former wife. In a 2 to 1 decision, in Kosilek v. Spencer, the appeals panel said courts “must not shrink from their obligation to ‘enforce the constitutional rights of all ‘persons,’ including prisoners.’ And receiving medically necessary treatment is one of those rights, even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox.”

SEATTLE MAYOR THREATENED:  Seattle police arrested a man last Thursday for threatening openly gay Mayor Ed Murray as well as a city council member. Mitchell Taylor, 32, is being held on $600,000 bail for posting more than 20 threatening posts on his Facebook page, saying such things as, “Mayor, meet Harvey Milk.” Several media said the man’s attorney told a judge that Taylor as a form of autism and had stopped taking his medication.

SEATTLE BAR RELEASES VIDEO: The owners of the gay bar in Seattle that was attacked by an arsonist on New Year’s Eve released a surveillance camera video that shows a man carrying a bag through the crowd that evening. Police later released still photos from the video identifying the man as a person of interest in the arson attack. A detective told one television station that police did not release the video themselves to “respect people’s privacy.”

NH VOTERS AMBIVALENT: A new survey of New Hampshire voters has found that 66 percent say the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state has had “no impact” on their lives, and 60 percent say such marriages “should be allowed.” The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling January 9-12 with 1,354 voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent. Same-sex couples could marry in the Granite State beginning 2010.


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