UPDATE: (5:40pm ET) – There are quite a few stories being narrated surrounding today’s session in the Ugandan parliament. The AP describes a walkout by female MPs over the Marriage and Divorce bill which left the plenary session without a quorum. If not for that action, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill might have been debated and passed.
I am getting reports that I cannot confirm about deals being made to get the bill to the floor and others to keep it from the floor. Such is politics and I suspect there will be more angling before Friday.
As of now, the Parliament plans a 10am session start time (instead of the usual 2pm start) to run through the day until the remaining bills are discussed. According to two parliamentary spokeswomen, members could still vote to continue business to the next Parliament, if the bills are not considered on Friday.
Clearly, the international response has been noticed in Kampala. Governments, including our own, are promising varying responses if the bill passes as is. Less clear is what happens if the bill passes with amendments which remove the death penalty, and do not criminalize attempted homosexuality. Earlier today, David Bahati declined to tell me any additional possible changes, saying the report is embargoed until is it placed on the table in Parliament. I am pretty sure that any bill will be unacceptable to European and US interests, but it is unclear to me how far the Ugandan government will go to try to craft what they would consider to be a compromise.
UPDATE: (12:10pm ET) – Helen Kawesa just told me that Parliament has adjourned but will reconvene on Friday to consider the remaining bills on the agenda. They will begin in the morning and work until all of the bills are considered. The intent is to address all bills. The AHB is the last one and is the most vulnerable but with an all day session, it is possible for it to get a third reading. According to Kawesa, Friday is absolutely the last day however as the new Parliament is sworn in on Monday.
According to bill author, David Bahati, the Parliament will meet at 10am and address the remaining four bills on the current order paper. He declined to predict the response of the Parliament but felt sure that the bill would get a debate and discussion.
UPDATE: As Jim Burroway pointed out in the comments section, there is a revised order paper up on the Uganda Parliament website. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is on it. I am attempting to clarify the situation with the Parliament.
In talking with a spokeswoman at Parliament, she confirmed that the Parliament could continue bills until the 9th Parliament if the members agreed to forward all bills. The AHB could not be singled out.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Bill is not on today’s parliamentary agenda. This morning parliamentary spokeswoman, Ranny Ismail, told me that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is still in committee. The report on the bill is indeed complete but in their procedure, the bill is still considered in committee and is not on the agenda for business today. She added that no more business would be done in this Parliament.
However, when asked if the anti-gay measure was finished, she said that Parliament could carry forward all unfinished business in all committees if a member makes a motion to do so and the motion passes. She said this has happened before. Because she was unsure about the fate of such a motion, she said she would not know the final outcome until about 7pm in Kampala (noon est).
This is the first time I have heard that such a maneuver could be attempted. In all prior interviews with anyone connected with the bill, including David Bahati and Stephen Tashobya, the message has been that the bill must be completed by the end of this Parliament in order to avoid starting from scratch in the next one. Ms. Ismail said if a continuing motion is adopted then all work on all bills not completed in this Parliament will continue in the next. If a motion to continue the business is not passed, then she said Bahati would have to start from the beginning and obtain leave from Parliament to introduce another private member’s bill. Given the backlog of bills on today’s order paper, I suspect the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is not the only bill which would be continued.
There are many questions which become clearer at the end of today’s session. However, other issues will take longer to clarify. No doubt opponents of the bill will have mixed feelings about this development. Today and for a time, the bill will be halted. However, if the motion to continue passes, then the matter will persist indefinitely.
I will update this post as I get information.
Last night Rachel Maddow had a segment on the AHB. A little way into the clip, she features this blog prominently…watch for it.
Watch again tonight at 9pm. I believe she will have a recap of the day’s events.