Earlier today in a packed court room in Kampala, a panel of five judges overturned the harsh anti-gay law that President Yoweri Museveni signed in February, declaring it "null and void" — but only on a technicality.
Specifically, the judges ruled that the speaker of the Ugandan parliament made a mistake in allowing a vote on the bill, when there were objections that there were not enough MPs in attendance.
"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum," said the court's ruling. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally."
The ruling did not address the larger question of whether the law itself — which banned the "promotion of homosexuality" and carried life sentences for acts of so-called "aggravated homosexuality" — was constitutional.
"We welcome this ruling and Uganda's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community can celebrate a small victory against oppression," Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, told The Guardian. "However, we are disappointed that the case was not heard on its true merits. The truth is that, not only is the anti-homosexuality act persecutory, it is also unconstitutional and illegitimate. This law has no place in our society, which values dignity, privacy and equality for all our citizens. Until the act has been dismissed on the substance of our arguments, we cannot rest easy."
Despite the court's ruling, activists have warned that homosexuality itself remains illegal in the country due to existing colonial-era laws. The Guardian reports that the new law was challenged by a group of 10 petitioners ranging from academics and journalists to MPs from both the government and the opposition.
After the law was passed, the World Bank and several European countries withheld aid to the country, a move that a government spokesperson deemed "blackmail." According to AP, supporters of the anti-gay law believe President Museveni may have quietly backed the ruling in advance of next week's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.
"This ruling has got nothing to do with the will of the people," Ugandan cleric Martin Ssempa, who supports the anti-gay law, told AP. "Unfortunately, it has everything to do with pressure from Barack Obama and the homosexuals of Europe."
The Ugandan government has not yet indicated whether it will appeal the decision, nor whether the bill might be re-introduced.
But for now, Uganda's gay community is celebrating.
Via The Guardian