As scores of African countries enact aggressive anti-homosexual legislation, Liberia may be the first on the continent to ink pro-gay laws, due to an initiative from gay rights activists and pressure from Western governments.
According to local reports, the pro-gay movement is mired in corruption, including allegations of Liberian lawmakers receiving bribes from foreign governments in order to pursue Western pro-gay agendas.
The New Dawn, a major Monrovia (Liberia’s capital) newspaper, wrote on Monday that it had received information that a coalition of U.S. and European gay rights groups had promised as much as $4 million to several lawmakers, with orders to distribute the money amongst members of the House of Representatives. In exchange, the lawmakers were asked to support the soon-to-be proposed “Gay Rights Bill” which would allow gay marriage and protect homosexuals in the country, the publication alleged.
Another $1 million reportedly has been earmarked for members of the Senate.
Despite the alleged financial lobbying, Speaker of the House J. Alex Tyler said he would not sign a bill supporting a homosexual agenda if plans to send it through Congress come to fruition.
Liberia is one of Africa’s more progressive nations, having elected the continent’s first and only female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2005 following decades of civil war under oppressive leader Charles Taylor. Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has the support of Western governments, many of whose leaders attended her inaugurations.
With strong support from Western governments and some Liberian lawmakers, gay rights activists in the country are optimistic about the bill’s introduction and passage.
Leroy Archie Pon-Pon, executive officer of the Movement for the Defense of Lesbians and Gays Rights in Liberia, said legal allowance of same-sex marriage should be fundamental and that Liberia is in a uniquely influential position in Africa.
“This issue has to do with fundamental rights. A man or a woman has a right to do what he/she wants to do,” Pon-Pon said on a local radio station Monday. “If he wants to marry man let him marry man, if she wants to marry woman let her marry woman."
African governments have been facing pressure from Western governments to enact pro-gay laws. The U.S. and U.K. have both announced they would cut aid to any country that did not provide legal recourse for homosexuals. For thousands of Africans, including Liberians, foreign aid is essential.
Those against the gay rights bill say it would tear a hole in the country’s moral fabric and that Liberia’s values should not be put at odds with its foreign aid by Western governments.
An editorial in The New Dawn lambasted the initiative on Monday, saying that it brings shame onto the country.
“Homosexuality is not only desecrating, abusive and exploitative, particularly in a poverty-ridden society like Liberia, but un-African,” the editorial said. “Those officials of government, including members of the Legislature behind the campaign need to rethink their action because posterity is watching them keenly.”
The paper claims that the initiative is insulting not only because it calls for gay rights but because lawmakers would be selling off Liberian values in order to receive Western aid.
“It is time that we as a nation stand up to the West and say ‘No’ to making homosexuality as a precondition to receiving assistance,” the editorial said. “Liberians need to reflect why the call is being made to Africa. This is a new form of subjugation that Africa should resist with unison.”
Countries throughout Africa – including Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana – have easily passed legislation opposing same-sex marriage. In some countries, engaging in any homosexual activity is a punishable offense.