Tulsa Unitarian minister speaks in Uganda against proposed anti-gay law
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Monday, February 15, 2010
2/15/10 at 10:33 PM
Tulsa minister Marlin Lavanhar spoke Sunday at a conference in Uganda opposing that nation’s proposed tough new law against homosexuality.
“I have never met such beautiful, courageous, loving people,” Lavanhar said in a blog he wrote from Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
“And to imagine that they are basically being hunted by their own government who seem to want imprison them and maybe kill them in some cases,” wrote Lavanhar, who is senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church.
“It is like a genocide of sorts. People are scared but today they feel solidarity with each other and those of us from abroad who have shown their support.
“I was glad I could be a very small part of this historic effort and I hope it is an inspiration for a human rights revolution for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people worldwide.”
The rally of about 200 people was held in a hotel conference room in Kampala, with 20 security guards from a government-run security organization, Lavanhar said.
Its location was not disclosed for security reasons.
The Uganda Daily Monitor, an independent newspaper, quoted a police official who said he was unaware of the meeting but that “if we get them, we shall arrest them.”
Lavanhar is expected back in Tulsa on Thursday.
He said he will share his Uganda experiences during church services Sunday at All Souls.
The proposed law is drawing criticism from around the world. It would stiffen penalties for a wide range of homosexual activities.
Under current law, engaging in a homosexual act carries up to a 14-year prison sentence.
Under the proposed law, that would be increased to life in prison.
The proposal also sets prison sentences for promoting homosexuality or failing to report it to authorities.
It proposes the death penalty for a new offence of “aggravated homosexuality,” including sex with minors, sex while HIV positive and serial offenders.
Participants in the conference called for decriminalization of homosexuality and access to services, human rights and protection by the government.
The chief organizer was the Rev. Mark Kiyimba, Uganda’s only Unitarian Universalist pastor.
Lavanhar said he was invited to speak because Kiyimba is a personal friend whose Uganda church has a sister-church relationship with All Souls.
The Unitarian Universalist church was one of the first U.S. denominations to champion gay rights and accept gays and lesbians into full leadership.
All Souls Unitarian Church Senior Minister Marlin Lavanhar poses in the All Souls sanctuary last week before leaving for a conference in Uganda opposing that nation's proposed law against homosexuality. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World