Thursday, August 15, 2013

Federal Court Says Alien Tort Claim For LGBTI Persecution In Uganda Can Proceed

In Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively,  (D MA, Aug. 14, 2013), a Massachusetts federal district court, in a 79-page opinion, refused to dismiss a suit under the federal Alien Tort Statute (as well as state civil conspiracy and negligence claims) brought by a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy group against an American evangelical anti-gay activist who allegedly "has attempted to foment, and to a substantial degree has succeeding in fomenting, an atmosphere of harsh and frightening repression against LGBTI people in Uganda." The suit against Scott Lively, president of the Abiding Truth Ministries, seeks damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. In permitting plaintiff to proceed with the lawsuit, the court said in part:
[M]any authorities implicitly support the principle that widespread, systematic persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes a crime against humanity that violates international norms.....  [A]iding and abetting a crime against humanity is a well established offense under customary international law, and actions for redress of this crime have frequently been recognized by American courts as part of the subclass of lawsuits for which the ATS furnishes jurisdiction.... 
Second, the restrictions ... on extraterritorial application of the ATS do not apply to the facts as alleged in this case, where Defendant is a citizen of the United States and where his offensive conduct is alleged to have occurred, in substantial part, within this country. Indeed, Defendant ... is alleged to have maintained what amounts to a kind of “Homophobia Central” in Springfield, Massachusetts....
Third, clear authority supports Plaintiff’s standing here. Fourth, the argument that Defendant’s actions have constituted mere expression protected under the First Amendment is, again, premature..... [S]ufficient facts are alleged... to support the claim that Defendant’s behavior crossed well over any protective boundary established by the First Amendment. Fifth, and finally, the arguments attacking the claims under Massachusetts state law have not been convincingly developed.
Center for Constitutional Rights and The Rainbow Times report on the decision.