US Conservative Groups Supported Nigerian Anti-Gay Law That Led to Wave of Arrests

The Associated Press is reporting that “dozens of gay men” have been arrested in northern Nigeria as a result of a new law strengthening the country’s prohibition on homosexuality, in what public health groups fear will be a setback to efforts to fight AIDS.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Police, working off a list of 168 suspects purportedly obtained through torture, are arresting dozens of gay men in Nigeria's northern Bauchi state, human rights activists said Tuesday.

A new law in Nigeria, dubbed the "Jail the Gays" bill, is encouraging the persecution of gays and will endanger programs fighting HIV-AIDS in the gay community, said Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights.

On Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan's office confirmed that the Nigerian leader signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that criminalizes gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them.

CBS notes that “sodomy has been illegal in Nigeria for many years...in some parts of Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north where strict Sharia law is upheld, gays and lesbians risk being stoned to death if they are caught.”

This seems like a good time, then, to look back at the American religious right’s support for Nigeria’s harsh penalties for its LGBT residents and opposition to Obama administration efforts to protect LGBT rights abroad.

In 2011, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the Obama administration would work to protect LGBT rights abroad – including in places like Nigeria that criminalize homosexuality -- the religious right exploded in anger. Pat Robertson called the policy “appalling” and warned of God’s wrath in response. Radio host Janet Mefferd cited Nigeria’s anti-gay laws in a rant against the Obama administration’s policy, saying “I don’t see that this is something that the United States has to jump in on because it’s such a huge global tragedy. It’s crazy.” The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute also cited Nigeria’s move to tighten criminal sanctions on homosexuality in its opposition to the Obama administration policy.

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, the anti-gay group MassResistance, and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater have also supported Nigeria’s anti-gay laws at various stages.

We wonder if any of these groups will comment about this wave of arrests.