Ugandan Court Declares Anti-Gay Law 'Null and Void'

Measure was passed without a quorum, court rules it illegal

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Aug 1, 2014 9:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Ugandan court today invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, saying the measure is illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum. The panel of five judges on the East African country's Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections—including from the country's prime minister—over a lack of a quorum when the bill was passed on Dec. 20. Lawyers and activists challenged the anti-gay law after it was enacted in February on the grounds that it was illegally passed and that it violated rights guaranteed in Uganda's constitution.

"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum," the court said in its ruling. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally." The ruling was made before a courtroom packed with Ugandans opposing or supporting the measure. Activists erupted in loud cheers after the court ruled the law is now "null and void." A colonial-era law that criminalizes sex acts "against the order of nature" still remains in effect in Uganda, allowing for the continued arrests of alleged homosexual offenders, according to a Ugandan lawyer who was among the petitioners. Lawmakers will likely also try to reintroduce a new anti-gay measure, he said.

A photo of Uganda's president hangs on the wall, left, as Judge Stephen Kavuma reads the verdict  at Uganda’s Constitutional court.
A photo of Uganda's president hangs on the wall, left, as Judge Stephen Kavuma reads the verdict at Uganda’s Constitutional court.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie)
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