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January 11, 2013

African suit against U.S. anti-gay leader has a rocky start

Springfield, Mass.--U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor hinted at a grim outlook on January 7 for a lawsuit against an anti-gay American evangelical filed by an African LGBT group, but also voiced doubts about the possibility of dismissing the suit.

Scott Lively, a pastor and “persecution consultant,” as Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights described him in the Washington Post, was sued under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows for lawsuits to be filed in the United States for foreign acts that violate “the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, argues that Lively’s keynote appearance at an anti-gay religious conference in 2009 in Uganda spurred homophobic violence in the country and the push to pass a draconian bill that could punish “habitual” homosexual offenders with the death penalty.

Lively is head of Abiding Truth Ministries, a California anti-gay organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also co-authored a book claiming that gays were behind the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany.

According to Warren, Lively has been “strategizing with influential leaders and cohorts in other countries about ways to further silence and remove LGBT people from basic protections of the law, in particular by criminalizing their advocacy.”

Under international law, persecution on the basis of identity is a crime against humanity, and the United Nations has begun adding LGBT people to its human rights compacts.

Over 150 people gathered at the courthouse on January 7, with dozens protesting against Lively outside.

Ponsor questioned attorneys on both sides for an hour and a half before warning the constitutional center’s attorneys that they needed to do a better job of connecting Lively’s actions and speech in Uganda with illegal activity.

He suggested that they would strengthen their case by showing a “more concrete example of, for lack of a better term, misbehavior to justify the continuation of the lawsuit,” according to the Springfield Republican.

He told Lively’s attorney, however, that federal law sets a high threshold for the dismissal of cases, and said he would rule shortly on last June’s motion to dismiss. He did not, however, give a specific date.












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