U.S. and Kenya, Two Views on LGBT Rights

Remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama Given at Press Conference in Kenya on Gay and Lesbian Rights, July 25, 2015:

Similarly, with respect to the rights of gays and lesbians, I have been consistent all across Africa on this. I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law, and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

And I say that recognizing that there may be people who have different religious or cultural beliefs. But the issue is, how does the state operate relative to people? If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they are doing anybody but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen.

President Obama Visits Kenya in July 2015
President Obama Visits Kenya in July 2015

And when a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. And as an African-American in the United States I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently under the law. And there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery. And they were wrong.

So I’m unequivocal on this. If somebody is a law abiding citizen who is going about their business and working in a job and obeying the traffic signs and doing all of the other things good citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody, the idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong, full stop. The state does not need to weigh in on religious doctrine. The state just has to say we are going to treat everybody equally under the law. And then everybody else can have their own opinions, all right?

Remarks by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta Given at Press Conference in Kenya on Gay and Lesbian Rights, July 25, 2015:

With regard to the second question, just like President Obama, I think we also need to be able to speak frankly about some of these things. And the fact of the matter is that Kenya and the United States, we share so many values — our common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families. These are things that we share.

But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share, our culture, our societies don’t accept. It’s very difficult for us to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept. This is why I repeatedly say for that Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a nonissue. We want to focus on other areas that are day to day living for our people.

Source: Transcripts 

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