Lively has claimed that his words were all taken out of context. "Most of the ostensibly inflammatory comments attributed to me are from selectively edited video clips of my 2009 seminars in Kampala," he told the Guardian last year. "I challenge the plaintiffs and their allies to publish the complete footage of the seminar on the internet. They will not do this or their duplicity would be exposed."
But Judge Ponsor seems to have read the spots off the complaint. He goes through the detailed travel and contacts arranged between Lively and several others alleged to be leaders in Uganda’s anti-gay initiative. Ponsor details the many speeches, seminars, and events laid out in the complaint, at which Lively, by his own admission, was “instrumental in the efforts … not only to create a rhetorical platform for Uganda’s anti-LGBTI campaign of persecution, but to craft specific initiatives designed to repress and intimidate LGBTI people and organizations advocating on their behalf.” According to the complaint, Lively also published two books that “presented a comprehensive plan of action designed to repress the so-called ‘gay movement,’ ” which he described as “the most dangerous social and political movement of our time.” The two proposed steps were “criminalizing advocacy – that is, subjecting any public expressions of support for the LGBTI community to criminal prosecution -- and attributing to LGBTI individuals a compulsion to sexually abuse children.” Lively acknowledges that he read and commented on a draft of the 2009 “Kill the Gays” legislation. Soon after, and while the bill was still pending in Parliament, harassment and abuse of LGBT Ugandans increased significantly.
Judge Ponsor dismisses out of hand Lively’s argument that “because LGBTI people suffer discrimination in many countries, acts of persecution committed by him against this community cannot be viewed as violating international norms.” He calls the whole argument “specious” and finds that “the history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability."
In deciding to allow the litigation to move forward, Ponsor is not ruling in the case; he’s merely giving the plaintiffs a chance to prove their theory that what Lively did went beyond the bounds of protected free speech to become aiding and abetting serious human rights violations. He is also giving them an opportunity to put hate on the stand, and reveal the extent to which some overzealous American religious leaders—feeling they have lost the culture wars at home—are trying to export their most vicious and repressive anti-gay campaigns abroad.
Lively spent last month bragging about his role in Russia’s recent moves to clamp down on homosexuality, writing on his website that Russia “has just taken the very important and frankly necessary step of criminalizing homosexual propaganda to protect the society from being ‘homosexualized.’ This was one of my recommendation to Russian leaders in my 50-city tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007.” It’s hard to believe anyone would go on to brag about Russia as the obvious place to relocate the American dream, but as Steve Benen noted, Lively was quick to go there as well: "Russia could become a model pro-family society," he wrote. "If this were to occur, I believe people from the West would begin to emigrate to Russia in the same way that Russians used to emigrate to the United States and Europe."
There is an Only-In-America quality to the fact that a U.S. court might reach out to punish hate speech and persecution of minorities using international human rights laws and an obscure alien torts statute. But that pales in comparison with the Only-In-America-ness of an American deploying First Amendment arguments to defend his anti-gay advocacy in Uganda, all while working to build a utopian family paradise in Russia. Where dissidents go to jail every day.