Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Because That Helps?

[TW: Violence; Anti-gay hatred]

Uganda has been mulling over a bill that would, under certain conditions, mandate life imprisonment or the death penalty for people engaging in same-sex sexual behavior and/or same-sex marriage. US Christian evangelicals have been instrumental in advocating for this legislation, indeed some even believe the execution of gays would be an "exemplary" policy for the US to implement too.

Well, those folks are probably doing a little touchdown dance now. From CNN:

"A Ugandan gay rights activist whose name was published on a list of the nation's 'top homosexuals' was bludgeoned to death in his home near the capital.

A neighbor found David Kato dead and notified authorities, according to his lawyer, John Onyango.
Kato's money and some clothes were missing after the attack, Onyango said.

It was unclear whether Kato's killing was linked to his gay rights activism or a front-page story in a Ugandan tabloid that reignited anti-gay sentiments late last year.

The story included a list of 'top 100 homosexuals' with their photos, addresses and a banner with the words 'Hang Them.' Kato's name and picture were on the list."

The editor of the tabloid was quick to clarify:

"When we called for hanging of gay people, we meant ... after they have gone through the legal process," said Giles Muhame. "I did not call for them to be killed in cold blood like he was."

Oh rly?

Because I would argue that (mis)using the power and authority of the state to legitimize the murder of people engaging in consensual same-sex sexual behavior would actually be more abhorrent than some lone gunman killing a gay man in "cold blood."

In a state does that not criminally sanction homosexuality, when a person kills another because that person is gay, many in the community widely view that violence as abhorrent. For instance, even in the US where homobigotry still exists, many (though not all) would rightly view the murder of a gay man as a violation of community norms even if they disagreed with homosexuality itself.

But when the state implicates itself and directly participates in the murder of gay people, it is different. By explicitly authorizing the execution of people based solely on their sexual orientation, the state sends a message that violence against that particular group is condoned, acceptable, and encouraged.

When state officials execute gay people, they are only "carrying out their orders." They are just "complying with the law." Murder becomes a bureaucratic duty and is viewed as some sort of public good, leaving murderers (and would-be murderers like Muhame) free to wipe their hands clean after they commit a gross atrocity with, not only the approval of their own consciences, but the approval of the community at large.

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