President Obama was warned, even threatened, about speaking on LGBT rights in Kenya, but that didn’t sway or censor the American leader.
According to Time Magazine, President Obama held a joint press conference with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday, where he said this in favor of the LGBT community.
“I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law, and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. I’m unequivocal on this.”
The statement might seem innocuous, but gay rights is still a highly controversial issue for Kenya and most of Africa.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, in Kenya, homosexual sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and only eight percent of the population believes homosexuality should be accepted in society, according to Pew Research. Lawmakers and protesters worried that Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya, would make comments that would “encroach on the social fabric.”
One lawmaker, Charles Njagagua, even called for the POTUS to be removed from Parliament if he brought up LGBT issues there.
They had reason to believe the U.S. President would talk about LGBT rights. The president has spoken on the subject in South Africa, Tanzania, and Senegal — which also largely reject gay rights.
Furthermore, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained, “We have been clear that when the president travels around the world he does not hesitate to raise concerns about human rights.”
President Obama proved he would not be silenced. But Uhuru Kenyatta distanced himself immediately from the American leader’s comments, explaining that Kenya has too many challenges, such as education and health, to address something like LGBT rights.
“There are some things that we must admit we don’t share—our culture, our societies don’t accept. It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept. This is why I repeatedly say that, for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue. Maybe once, like you have overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones.”
The comments drew applause from the small group of reporters and spectators.
President Obama, on the other hand, made it clear that the issue wasn’t a matter of priorities, but of right and wrong, comparing the LGBT experience to the history of African-Americans.
“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. As an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.”
Despite the passionate rebuke, the audience was silent for Obama’s LGBT comments, but at least no one removed him from the stage.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]