Court allows Pastor Sempa, two others as parties in anti-gay case

Outspoken religious pastor Martin Sempa with other anti-homosexuality activists march on the streets of Kampala on March 31, 2014 in support of the government's stance against homosexuality. PHOTO/FILE/AFP

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Pastor Sempa now joins the Attorney General as defendant in the four petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality law.

The Constitutional Court has allowed outspoken born-again pastor, Martin Ssempa, to defend the legality of the Anti- Homosexuality law enacted in 2023.
Pastor Sempa now joins the Attorney General as defendant in the four petitions challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality law.
Through his lawyer, Mr Gawaya Tegulle, Pastor Ssempa asked permission to defend the petition based on moral and ethical reasons which the Attorney General represented by the Director Civil Litigation Martin Mwambutsya had rejected, noting that he was not convinced by Sempa’s true motive to defend the Anti-gay law.
Another successful application is one for Family Life network boss, Eng Stephen Langa and UNAIDS who have been joined as friends of court to assist in providing more information to court as to why the Anti-Homosexuality law should either be upheld or scrapped from the law books.
“Court has considered the application of amicus by the applicant (UNAIDS) as the court will benefit from the documents provided. The applicant should file a brief which should be limited to the documents that were filed in the application on file,” Justice Richard Butera held.
UNAIDS contend they have information to the effect that if the Anti-Homosexuality law is left to stand, it will hamper their efforts to fight against HIV/ AIDS since it prohibits any health worker from rendering assistance to gay people.
The five-member panel chaired by the Deputy Chief Justice has given the three applicants timelines within which to file and serve their responses on one another on Friday this week.
The judges will on December 18, 2023 hear the main petitions.
The court also dismissed other eight applications in which civil society organisations and individuals had sought to be joined as friends of court. The court, however, ruled that it would not benefit from their expertise.
“It is our decision that the court will not benefit from the documents filed on Court record and is hereby dismissed,” ruled the court.
Other justices are Christopher Gashirabake, Muzamiru Kibeedi, Monica Mugenyi and Geoffrey Kiryabwire.
Those whose applications were dismissed included; six international people from the leading African legal scholars led by Achiume Tendayi , Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Viv HealthCare Uk LTD and Center for Applied Legal Studies (CALS).
The applications were in regard to the four petitions in which human rights activists and lawyers are challenging the legality of the Anti-Homosexuality law enacted in 2023.
The petitions were filed by West Budama MP Fox Odoi, Uganda's Ambassador to South Africa Kintu Nyango, Veteran Journalist Andrew Mwenda, Makerere University Law professors; Sylvia Tamale, Busingye Kabumba and several civil society organisations.

Among some of the grounds to the petition, the complainants contend the Homosexuality Act 2023 alters a 2014 Constitutional Court decision which nullified a similar law and is therefore inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution.

The petitioners contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 was passed within a record period of six days instead of the 45- day period provided for by the rules of Parliament.

They further allege that Parliament enacted the controversial law on May 2 without meaningful and adequate public participation which is inconsistent and in contravention of Articles 1, 2, 8A, 20, 36, 38, 79 and Objective 11(1) of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution.

However, in defence the Attorney General who represents the government argues that:” The provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 are not inconsistent with or in contravention with the provisions of the Constitution, international treaties, covenants and declarations.”
The government lawyers contend that the legislation does not alter the 2014 decision by the Constitutional Court, saying: “The decision/judgment was based on the lack of quorum and did not go to the substance of the legislation.”
He added that the Act was passed by Parliament after conducting wide consultations with the public and their representatives in the form of written and oral memoranda.