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Ugandan LGBTQ Rights Advocate to Speak in Portland

Rev. Mark Kiyimba at the 2009 UUA General Assembly

Uganda has been in the LGBT news a lot lately for its upcoming bill that proposes executions for gays. Introduced in Uganda’s parliament last year, the bill would give the death penalty to any homosexual person who tests positive for HIV, and up to three years in jail for anyone who knows a gay person and does not report them. The proposal emerged after ex-Oregon Citizens Alliance communications director Scott Lively spoke to Uganda’s parliament.

It it likely to pass but there are still Ugandans working for justice in their country. One of them, Rev. Mark Kiyimba, will be in Portland this weekend.

Kiyimba, one of a small number of straight supporters of gay rights in Uganda, has risked his life by holding an LGBT conference last February in Kampala, attended by 200 people. His church runs a school for 150 orphans who lost their parents to HIV and AIDS, as well as an orphanage for 22 children infected with the virus.

You can get a taste of some of the things he’ll speak about with snippets from Kiyimba’s interview with the Willamette Week:

So how did you and your parishioners come to hold the views you did?

Our church goes in with the approach of saying, “Look, these people do it differently, but they don’t need to be eliminated.” …I am telling people in Uganda from the point of view of a minister, “Look, these are human beings.”

Has violence gone up since this bill was introduced?

Before this bill was introduced, people knew that gay people existed in Uganda, but there was [not] any kind of hate which was so much going on like it is now. It wasn’t there. But since the bill was introduced to Parliament, my friend, it got worse. It’s a loss. So, the bill actually helped so much to instigate gay violence in my country…

On a much different note, what do you think about the gay marriage debate in the United States?

I would be happy if all of the states would allow people to get married in a civil way. Marriage is an agreement between two people. We can be married politically. We can be married sexually. There are so many marriages. It shouldn’t be a big problem to see two people married…. They should look at it just as two people agreeing to be together, but they want to be married legally.

What do you make so far of gay culture in the United States?

They are free. They have freedom. They can be able to speak for themselves. That is something that can’t be in my country for the next 20 years.

Kiyimba will give a lecture Friday, Nov. 5, at 7 pm at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus in the Moriarty Building, 705 N Killingsworth St. He also will give a presentation Sunday, Nov. 7, at 1 pm in First Unitarian Church’s Buchan Reception Room, 1034 SW 13th Ave. For info, visit firstunitarianportland.org.

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