With the United States’ recent landmark Supreme Court ruling legalising same-sex marriage, and Kenya’s well-known, abhorrent stance towards LGBT people – this issue was, of course, the huge pink elephant in the room when Obama met Uhuru Kenyatta on his first presidential visit to Nairobi, Kenya.
Many thought that the leaders would side-step the issue and keep the conversation on friendly territory at a joint press conference. After all, his father was from Kenya. However, Obama stuck to his guns and called out the country for their homophobic laws – currently, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment in the African country.
While standing next to the Kenya President, Obama stated, “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.”
Obama continued, “When you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they’re doing anybody, but because they’re different – that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen. When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread.
“If somebody is a law abiding citizen who is going about their business and working in a job and obeying the traffic signs and doing all the other things that good citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody, the idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong.”
Kenyatta quickly brushed off Obama’s call for LGBT rights, saying the it simply was “not an issue” for Kenyans.
“We want to focus on other areas that are day-to-day living for our people,” Kenyatta said. “Maybe once – like you have – we overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones. But as of now, the fact remains that this issue is not really an issue that is in the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact.”
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