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Asylum granted to Ugandan gay rights advocate

Pennsylvania residents may recall media coverage of laws adopted in Uganda that outlawed homosexuality. The legislation, which was signed by Uganda's president in February 2014, included serious penalties for sexual activity between same-sex couples. According to media outlets, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Sept. 11 that a prominent Ugandan LGBT rights advocate's request for asylum was recommended for approval pending a background check. Since the anti-homosexuality bill came into effect in Uganda, the 41-year-old is believed to be the first LGBT rights advocate from that country to seek asylum.

Three days before the anti-homosexuality bill was signed, the man came to the U.S. He indicated in his petition for asylum that his sexual orientation was publicly revealed in Ugandan newspapers. He noted that he received several anonymous death threats, lost his business and was evicted from his residence. Additionally, the man stated that he was attacked one night in 2009 when he left a bar.

The Ugandan law has been roundly condemned in diplomatic circles, and the U.S. has responded by imposing travel restrictions on anti-LGBT rights officials and by cutting funding to several Ugandan agencies. Although the bill was rejected due to a technical issue in August 2014, Ugandan lawmakers have vowed to reintroduce the measure. Other African nations are also reportedly considering similar anti-gay legislation.

Those who fear persecution based on their race, religion or political views if they return to their home country may be eligible for U.S. asylum, but they may find the application process to be complex. An immigration attorney could evaluate an individual's case and offer advice regarding their eligibility for asylum. They could also assist asylum seekers with the documentation necessary and explain the steps involved in pursuing an asylum claim.

Source: Washington Blade, "U.S. grants asylum to prominent Ugandan LGBT rights advocate ", Michael K. Lavers, September 16, 2014

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