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Love Is Love

Ugandan minister and LGBT rights activist plans Pittsburgh visit.

While here in the United States LGBT people have continued to celebrate as more and more states grants marriage equality, the fight to be recognized as more than second-class citizens is very different in Uganda.

In February, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 was signed into law, not only prohibiting same-sex relationships, but also carrying a punishment of life in prison. The law was struck down in August, but homosexuality is still illegal, however and carries a 14-year prison sentence.

Eva Beal, youth ministry coordinator at First Unitarian Church in Shadyside, will host the Rev. Mark Kiyimba, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Uganda on Nov. 16 for 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday services at the church, 605 Morewood Ave.

“I’m excited to meet him and hear what he has to say,” Beal says. “I think there’s a lot of possibilities to bring people together in Pittsburgh.”

KIYIMBA, 38, LEADS A CHURCH OF 150 PEOPLE AND A SCHOOL FOR 650 CHILDREN ORPHANED BECAUSE OF HIV/AIDS IN KAMPALA, THE CAPITAL OF THE EAST AFRICAN COUNTRY

In Uganda, some of the homophobia and prejudice has been perpetuated by American evangelical Christian groups.

Even though he himself is not gay, Kiyimba has been an important part of the Unitarian Universalist “Standing on the Side of Love” advocacy campaign that “seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression” begun in 2008, according to standingonthesideoflove.org.

“I think a really big challenge with oppression is you’re meant to feel alone,” Beal says, which is why she feels connecting people to one another is important.

She hopes with Kiyimba’s visit, participants get a better picture of the human rights struggle in Africa from Africans, supporting him and gaining courage to stand up for LGBT rights.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear somebody say I just want to love the person I love,” Beal says. “I’m a big believer in love. Love is what we make it to be, not what others tell us it should be.”

For more information about Kiyimba’s speaking events, visit first-unitarian-pgh.org or the church’s Facebook page.

Stacey Federoff is a Sutersville, PA native, Penn State alumna, and reporter living in Park Place near Regent Square. She has written for The Daily Collegian, The Chautauquan Daily, Trib Total Media. She loves music, vinyl records, coffee, running, and volunteerism.