When Barack Obama announced a trip to his ancestral homeland of Kenya, political leaders explicitly told him to steer clear of gay rights–but Obama ignored them.
Vincent Kidala, the head of the Republican Liberty Party, was one of a number of politicians who went on the record to tell Obama that a lecture on gay rights had no business in Kenya.
“Obama should know that gay rights is Western. When in Africa he should value our rights,” Kidala said.
Instead, Obama came out swinging–and lectured Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta about his country’s dismal gay rights record at a joint press conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
“When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode,” Obama said. “And bad things happen.”
He continued: “And when a government gets in a habit of people treating people differently, those habits can spread. As an African-American, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.”
Kenyatta refused to back down from his country’s controversial law: “The fact of the matter is Kenya and the U.S. share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families–these are some things that we share,” Kenyatta said. “But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya–where sexual activity between men is punishable with a maximum imprisonment of 14 years.
Obama, fresh off a big gay marriage win in the Supreme Court, doesn’t seem to be shying away from calling out what he calls human rights violations in foreign countries–even when explicitly asked to keep his mouth shut.