By J. Lester Feder on Buzzfeed.com
A Ugandan court has dismissed sodomy charges against a man and a transwoman arrested in January, their lawyer, Fridah Mutesi of the organization Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum(HRAPF), told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.
Kim Mukisa and Rehana Mukasa — who was charged as Jackson Mukasa — were arrested after Mukisa was attacked by a mob during the period leading up to final approval of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Because they were arrested before the anti-LGBT bill became law, they were charged under a colonial-era statute criminalizing “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and imposing a sentence of up to life in prison.
The case was dismissed because the prosecution failed to produce any witnesses, Mutesi said. The case was originally supposed to begin in June, but the government had repeatedly sought to postpone the case because they couldn’t produce evidence. They sought another postponement on Wednesday, Mutesi said, but the judge dismissed the case when she objected.
“This is a victory because our clients are free,” Mutesi said, but she said they actually would have preferred to go to trial. Though the law has been on the books for more than 100 years, this would have been the first time a case would actually have been tried under the provision. More often the threat of sodomy charges are used by police to extort money from those arrested rather than brought to trial, said HRAPF director Adrian Jjuuko in an interview in May.
On the rare occasions when charges are formally brought, Mutesi said on Wednesday, they always “stop at this stage” because the police arrest people based on their believed sexual orientation or gender identity, but they can’t produce evidence to convict them of sodomy.
“The law under two which the two are charged criminalizing homosexual acts, not … being transgendered or being homosexual,” Mutesi said.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act that was enacted the month after Mukisa and Mukasa were arrested was much broader than the colonial-era sodomy statute, criminalizing not only same-sex intercourse but also “abetting” homosexuality. The law was struck down on a technicality by Uganda’s Constitutional Court in August, but some lawmakers are still working to restore it to the books.
A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the Washington Blade on Friday that the California Democrat believes gender identity should not be a factor prohibiting prospective soldiers from enlisting in the U.S. armed forces.
Currently, openly transgender citizens are barred from serving in the U.S. military by the Department of Defense’s instruction 6130.03, established in the 1970s, which disqualifies anyone with a “history of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia, such as change of sex [and] hermaphroditism,” or who has a “current or history of psychosexual conditions (302) including but not limited to transsexualism.”
Pelosi, a former Speaker who stands as one of the the highest-ranking female politicians in U.S. history, is among a number of Democrats, including her fellow California Rep. Susan Davis, and Massachussets Rep. Niki Tsongas, who support trans service members serving openly, notes the Blade.
The Congresswomen are joined by trans rights advocates who have been escalating pressure on the Department of Defense to end the regulation following the 2011 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers from serving openly.
As the trans military ban is not a law, but rather a departmental policy, the DOD has the ability to end the requirement without Congressional action. But despite Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s May 2014 statement that he was “open” to reviewing the ban, no action has been taken, according to a White House spokesman questioned on the issue by the Washington Blade.
To reignite discussion on the topic, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Palm Center convened a conference in Washington, D.C., this month, examining “Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globe” to highlight the successful efforts of allied nations to integrate transgender citizens into their armed forces. Military leaders from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Sweden spoke with transgender veterans and advocates in the first-of-its-kind conference intended to “inform the national conversation about U.S. military policy,” according to Bilerico.
Research has increasingly pointed to the conclusion that, as a landmark study from the Palm Center found earlier this year, there is “no compelling medical rationale” to continue disqualifying transgender Americans from serving openly in the armed forces. The study concluded that the military’s policies concerning health care for trans service members are inconsistent with its treatment of cisgender (non-trans) soldiers who require medically necessary hormones and reconstructive surgeries, and pointed out that the military’s stance is no longer in accord with scientific consensus, which, as of the 5th edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, no longer considers gender-nonconformity a mental illness.
According to the University of California at Los Angeles’ Williams Institute, nearly 15,500 trans servicemembers currently serve in the U.S. military and are still unable to be open about their gender identities or seek medically necessary healthcare. If any of those service members are outed as trans or pursue any kind of gender-affirming treatment, they can be discharged with paperwork that lists their reason for dismissal as one based on gender-nonconformity, which impacts their ability to access earned benefits like pension and can compromise the service member’s safety and future professional prospects.
New York: Sean Eldridge (pictured) is making an uphill climb to become a member of the LGBT Congressional Caucus representing New York’s Hudson Valley district (No. 19). His opponent is two-term Republican Chris Gibson.
Eldridge, the spouse of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, has been criticized repeatedly for using the couple’s personal wealth to fund his campaign, while little mention is made that Gibson’s campaign depends primarily on finance, insurance, and investment entities. Eldridge is, of course, pro-gay marriage; Gibson supports only civil unions, claiming that marriage is a religious institution. He earned a 76 rating from HRC in the last Congressional session and a zero in his first term.