Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joined President Biden in condemning a new law enacted in the East African nation of Uganda allowing the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."
"This Uganda law is horrific & wrong. Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination," Cruz tweeted on Monday. "ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse. #LGBTQ"
President Biden released a statement Monday calling for the immediate repeal of the legislation and threatened possible punitive action.
"The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights – one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people, and one that jeopardizes the prospects of critical economic growth for the entire country," Biden wrote. "I join with people around the world – including many in Uganda – in calling for its immediate repeal. No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong."
Biden said he directed the National Security Council "to evaluate the implications of this law on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda, including our ability to safely deliver services under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other forms of assistance and investments."
The administration "will also incorporate the impacts of the law into our review of Uganda’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)," the statement said. "And we are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption."
The White House noted that the U.S. government invests nearly $1 billion annually in Uganda’s people, business, institutions and military.
"This shameful Act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda," Biden wrote. "The dangers posed by this democratic backsliding are a threat to everyone residing in Uganda, including U.S. government personnel, the staff of our implementing partners, tourists, members of the business community, and others."
"Since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was introduced, reports of violence and discrimination targeting Ugandans who are or are perceived to be LGBTQI+ are on the rise," the White House said. "Innocent Ugandans now fear going to hospitals, clinics, or other establishments to receive life-saving medical care lest they be targeted by hateful reprisals. Some have been evicted from their homes or fired from their jobs. And the prospect of graver threats – including lengthy prison sentences, violence, abuse – threatens any number of Ugandans who want nothing more than to live their lives in safety and freedom."
The version of the bill signed Monday by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni does not criminalize those who identify as LGBTQ+, a key concern for some rights campaigners who condemned an earlier draft of the legislation as an egregious attack on human rights. The new law still prescribes the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," which is defined as cases of sexual relations involving people infected with HIV, as well as with minors and other categories of vulnerable people, according to The Associated Press.
A suspect convicted of "attempted aggravated homosexuality" can be imprisoned for up to 14 years, according to the legislation.
Parliamentary Speaker Anita Among said in a statement that the president had "answered the cries of our people" in signing the bill. Museveni had returned the bill to the national assembly in April, asking for changes that would differentiate between identifying as LGBTQ+ and actually engaging in homosexual acts. That angered some lawmakers, including some who feared the president would proceed to veto the bill amid international pressure. Lawmakers passed an amended version of the bill earlier in May.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.