Two Miracles in Uganda

Second from left, Nicholas Opiyo, an Ugandan hero

Second from left, Nicholas Opiyo, an Ugandan hero

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

A few months ago I wrote about a Nigerian judge who was criticized for merely ordering a man beaten nearly to death for the crime of being homosexual: his critics in that Islamic state wanted the offender stoned completely to death, as provided by law.

A couple of thousand miles to the east lies Uganda, an overwhelmingly Christian country. Until just this month, homosexuals fared much better there, facing, at worst, life imprisonment for that status crime. Then Uganda’s constitutional court struck down that law, sort of, on grounds that not enough homophobic legislators were present around Christmastime when its parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA).

The court — as supreme courts everywhere like to do — declined to rule on the actual merits of the law. So, whether the law is a human rights abomination remains an open question (in Uganda at least) for another day — for example, the day the lawmakers gather the quorum the court insisted is necessary to legitimize throwing gay people in prison.

Still, it was at least a temporary victory, particularly for folks who believe that Jesus’s message to the world was love and not hate. And it was thrilling to read the Tweets of a lead Ugandan lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, who brought suit against the AHA. Here are some of them, in the buildup to the court’s ruling:

(Tuesday 29 July)

It’s D-day in court tomorrow. The hearing of the Anti-homosexuality Act petition starts at 9.30am at the Constitutional Court.

Let’s now focus on the legal &human rights arguments not religious, cultural or politics. The AHA is unconstitutional &violates human rights

(Wednesday 30 July; the hearing begins and the government wants to stall.)

Constitutional court rejects the application of the AG to adjourn the AHA case & refused to grant leave to appeal. Hearing in process.

(Opiyo meets with Martin Ssempa, an Ugandan evangelical Baptist preacher who favors putting gay men and lesbians to death, shows gay porn videos in church to drum up support for this proposition, and incidentally is a favorite of evangelical preachers in the West.)

Pastor Sempa & I had a cordial chat after the AHA hearing.Although I declined his ofa 2pray 4me,we agreed 2 chat lata

“@jjuukoa: @nickopiyo thank you for making submissions in the case. I am confident human rights shall triumph.” Thanks Adrian.

The constitutional court adjourns to tomorrow further hearing of the AHA petition in Ug. We believe that the court will find in our favour

(Thursday 31 July)

The constitutional court adjourns to tomorrow at 9.30am to make a ruling on the AHA Petition. We will all be in court.

The parties are assembled in court. It’s a packed court house. The AHA decision due any minute. Let justice prevail

Court stands over the AHA ruling/judgment until noon today. The lawyers and petitioners are put. Going nowhere till noon

(Friday 1 August; the preacher Ssempa is beside himself — and everyone else in the courtroom — as the judges debate in chambers. Ssempa howls prayers to God and insults to petitioners until security guards ask him to please sit down and shut up. A miracle occurs: he actually does.)

The theatrics of Pastor Sempa aside – praying in the court room & making a nuisance of himself- the most important words will come 4m court

Judges in- giving the press 5 mins to clear so court can start

AHA struck down for being unconstitutional

Justice prevailed- we won

I will leave Kampala tomorrow for Washington Dc to attend the US-Africa Leaders Summit. What a better news to carry to the rest of the world

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