In a landmark precedent, a federal US judge has ruled that the case against prominent anti-gay extremist Scott Lively, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a Ugandan sexual and human rights group should proceed. Justice Michael Ponsor ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes a crime against humanity, and confirmed that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people, worldwide, are enshrined in international law.
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LGBT activists from around the world have celebrated the ruling which, in no uncertain terms, confirms the right of non-US citizens to have these sorts of cases heard in US courtrooms. Highlights from the ruling (which can be downloaded and read in full here) include the opinion that the defendant’s “alleged actions in planning and managing a campaign of repression in Uganda from the United States are analogous to a terrorist designing and manufacturing a bomb in this country, which he then mails to Uganda with the intent that it explode there.”
The media release by the Center for Constitutional Rights now follows:
August 14, 2013, Springfield, MA – Today, in a first-of-its kind case brought by a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy organization against a prominent U.S. anti-gay extremist, a federal judge ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law. The ruling means that the case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a Uganda-based coalition of LGBTI rights and advocacy groups, can move forward over defendant Scott Lively’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” said Judge Michael Ponsor. “The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability.”
The lawsuit alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI Ugandans of their fundamental human rights based solely on their identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity. This effort bore fruit most notably in the introduction of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (aka the Kill the Gays bill), which Lively helped engineer.
Lively has also been active in countries like Russia where a new law criminalizing gay rights advocacy was recently passed. In 2007, Lively toured 50 cities in Russia recommending some of the measures that are now law.
“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for human rights everywhere but most especially for LGBTI Ugandans who are seeking accountability from those orchestrating our persecution,” said Frank Mugisha, the director of SMUG.
Said CCR Attorney Pam Spees, “We are gratified that the court recognized the persecution and the gravity of the danger faced by our clients as a result of Scott Lively’s actions. Lively’s single-minded campaign has worked to criminalize their very existence, strip away their fundamental rights and threaten their physical safety.”
U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue for violations of international law in U.S. federal courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The case, Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, was originally filed in federal court in Springfield, MA, in March 2012. Today’s ruling is here. For more information, visit CCR’s case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.