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By Rudy Serra
During 2009, there was a world-wide outcry when Uganda Legislator David Bahati introduced a law to impose the death penalty on gay people. The European Union threatened to stop all financial aid to Uganda. Due to international pressure the proposal was quietly dropped.
Bahati is the leader of the ruling party in the Ugandan legislature. Clearly, the government of Uganda supported this extreme anti-gay proposal. Governments that support the persecution and killing of people for being gay are condemned for violating basic human rights.
The 2009 proposal has now been resubmitted. The new bill drops the death penalty, but would sentence gay people to life in prison. At present, you can get 14 years in prison for a gay sexual act in Uganda.
The news media in the U.S. highlights such extremist anti-gay proposals to show just how backward, bigoted and unfair a third-world government can be.
Under existing Michigan law [MCL 750.158] the maximum penalty for a single gay sex act is not 14 years. It is 15 years. If you get more than one conviction, the penalty can be life in prison. Anti-gay laws and policies in Michigan today are more backward, and more unjust, than those in Uganda.
Michigan was not included in the Supreme Court case that struck down sodomy laws in other states.
Michigan’s sodomy law is more severe than Uganda’s. There are people in Michigan prisons today who were convicted under the law after the historic Lawrence v Texas case in 2003.
LGBT Michigan celebrates court cases that strike down anti-marriage laws in California and the passage of marriage equality laws in Washington. Such celebrations are hollow. A same-sex couple that is married in California can still be prosecuted for having sex with one another in Michigan [MCL 750.338]. The law specifies that oral sex “in public or in private” is a felony in Michigan.
LGBT Michigan should no longer tolerate these ancient, Draconian, vicious and unfair laws. It is long past time to demand that the legislature repeal obsolete laws that stigmatize and criminalize our most private and intimate activity. Every candidate for the legislature should be asked whether they support the repeal of these statutes. Every candidate for judge should be grilled about how they would interpret or apply such laws.
Michigan’s sodomy and gross indecency laws are no better than laws against heresy and witchcraft. They are just as intrusive, oppressive and bigoted. They reflect an obsolete world-view steeped in superstition, magical thinking and enforced conformity. The language of our law is taken verbatim from a 19th century enactment. Our law reflects a mind-set that viewed females as property, others races as inferior, and left-handedness as Satanic. We can demand reform or we can remain the Uganda of the Midwest.