Metro Weekly

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg Stands With Uganda’s Anti-LGBTQ Laws

A Republican congressman traveled to Uganda and urged political leaders to "stand firm" on a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg – Photo: Ike Hayman, House Creative Services

A Republican congressman traveled to Uganda and delivered a speech praising that country’s lawmakers for passing a stringent anti-LGBTQ bill, urging them to stand firm against criticism from human rights groups and Western governments.

According to the progressive news organization The Young Turks (TYT), U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) spoke at Uganda’s National Prayer Breakfast in the city of Entebbe on October 8, justifying the trip as related to his official duties as co-chair of the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast, held annually in February.

The prayer breakfast, which most mainstream media outlets failed to report on at the time, drew many international delegations belonging to the “national prayer breakfast movement,” according to Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, who first sponsored and began pushing for the Anti-Homosexuality Act 15 years ago.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, as signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in May, imposes life imprisonment for engaging in same-sex relations.

Anyone who attempts to engage in same-sex relations can be punished from 7 to 14 years in prison, with a sentence of 20 years for anyone “promoting” homosexuality, including merely expressing support for LGBTQ rights or portraying homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. It effectively outlaws any human rights group that speaks out against laws criminalizing homosexuality.

The law also imposes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as engaging in same-sex relations while living with HIV, or in various circumstances where one party is accused of seducing or coercing another into engaging in same-sex acts.

That provision has been criticized because it encourages individuals to report their sexual partners to authorities, allowing the partner who comes forward first and purports to be a “victim” to avoid the law’s harshest penalties. 

The Ugandan law is currently being challenged in the courts.

U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the law, and his administration has called for the law’s repeal, expanding restrictions on U.S. visas for Ugandan officials involved with the law’s passage. 

In August, the World Bank announced it would be freezing loans to Uganda due to the anti-LGBTQ law.

Despite the negative publicity the law has attracted, Walberg urged attendees of the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast, including Museveni, Bahati, and others, to resist entreaties or pressure to repeal it.

“Though the rest of the world is pushing back on you,…though there are other major countries that are trying to get into you and ultimately change you, stand firm,” Walberg said, as first reported by the Take Care, Tim blog in October.

Walberg cited Biblical parables and used them to encourage Ugandans to shrug off international condemnation of the law.

“Worthless is the thought of the world…. [W]orthless, for instance, is the thought of the World Bank, or the World Health Organization, or the United Nations, or, sadly, some in our administration in America who say, ‘You are wrong for standing for values that God created,’ for saying there are male and female and God created them.'”

“Whose side do we want to be on? God’s side,” Walberg added. “Not the World Bank, not the United States of America, necessarily, not the U.N. God’s side.”

He also urged Ugandan leaders to stand by Museveni. “He knows that he has a Parliament, and…even congressmen like me who will say, ‘We stand with you.'”

Museveni cited Walberg’s presence and remarks as evidence that many conservatives in the West support laws to crack down on homosexuality in the name of religion and are supportive of Uganda and other nations’ efforts to achieve that goal.

“There are others, also, who come to tell you about homosexuals, about abortion. You now know that there are other Americans, other Western people, who think like us,” he said.

Bahati praised Walberg, recounting a conversation with the congressman about whether he was comfortable braving potential backlash or criticism for traveling to Uganda and expressing support for the law. He said Walberg told him, “Don’t worry, we are on the right side of God.”

Video of the event that has since emerged shows Walberg listening to a slew of anti-LGBTQ remarks from other speakers who defended passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Member of Parliament Cecilia Ogwal called LGBTQ advocates “a force from the bottom of hell,” asserting that LGBTQ people are attacking “familyhood,” and calling on Ugandans to “destroy” LGBTQ forces.

“We are not fighting flesh and blood. We are not fighting Europeans. We are not fighting Americans. We are fighting the forces of hell,” Ogwal said of the LGBTQ community.

According to TYTa congressional travel filing from Walberg revealed that it was paid for by the Fellowship Foundation, or the “International Foundation,” known more colloquially as “The Family,” which organizes the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast, and has long advocated for anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion policies, both domestically and abroad.

Walberg’s speech marks the first time any American lawmaker has publicly embraced Uganda’s attempts to further criminalize homosexuality.

News of Walberg’s role in promoting the law drew criticism on social media.

“News that House Republican Tim Walberg traveled to Uganda to support their anti-gay bill, including the death penalty, is disgusting. Tim, do you think the government should execute me and my 11 fellow gay Members of Congress because we are LGBTQ?” openly gay Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) wrote in a post on X.

Congressman Tim Walberg gave a speech in Uganda supporting that country’s ‘Kill the Gays.’ It will probably be ignored because the media doesn’t give a damn about #LGBTQ people,” wrote Alvin McEwen, the author of the blog Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, which refutes anti-LGBTQ propaganda spread by religious conservative organizations.

“Tim Walberg would execute 10% of Americans if he could,” tweeted one user.

“I hope karma deals with Walberg in a way that he’s held accountable for supporting such an evil act against other human beings. F**k Walberg!” wrote another.

“I blame Michigan voters for electing this former pastor. Religion is nothing more than primitive superstition. People like Walberg should be nowhere near government,” wrote another X user.

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