President Barack Obama did not hesitate to forcefully speak out in favor of LGBT rights at a press conference with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi on Saturday, saying that the idea that a “law-abiding citizen” could be treated differently or “abused because of who they love is wrong.”
Some African leaders had warned the President not to raise the issue of LGBT rights during his trip, but Obama had no intentions of remaining silent in a country where being gay is illegal and on a continent where in some countries being gay is punishable by death.
“I’m unequivocal on this. If somebody is a law-abiding citizen who is going about their business and working in a job and obeying the traffic signs and doing all the other things that all citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody, the idea that they are gonna be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong, full stop,” Obama said.
“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. And as an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” Obama said. “All sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery and they were wrong.”
Kenyatta responded to Obama’s comments by saying LGBT equality was not a priority for most Kenyans right now and that it was not a priority shared with the United States.
“There are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept. So it’s very difficult for us to be able to impose that which they themselves do not accept,” Kenyatta said. “This is why I repeatedly say that for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue. We want to focus on other areas that are day-to-day living for our people.”
“Maybe once we overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones,” Kenyatta added.
Watch the press conference below:
A Kenyan political group had threatened to protest the President’s upcoming visit by asking 4,000 men and 1,000 women to march naked through the streets, but the event was cancelled just before Obama’s visit.