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Is Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill dead?

Powerful forces line up both for and against the controversial anti-gay bill, which includes death penalty.

Others against the bill warned that the committee’s recommendations suggest that many aspects of the bill could still be passed “via stealth.”

Influential backing for the bill came from respected traditional leaders such as the Kabaka of Buganda and the world’s youngest king, King Oyo of the Tooro, who spoke in favor of the anti-gay legislation. The leaders urged the Ugandan Parliament to pass the bill in order to safeguard the country's values and traditions. Under their umbrella body, the Forum for Kings and Cultural Leaders in Uganda they expressed anger with the way Western countries have pressured the Ugandan government to throw out the anti-gay bill.

"We note with alarm how Western governments and their agencies are aggressively pushing for the legitimization of homosexuality which to us is not a human right, but a human vice," said the traditional leaders in a statement.

Adding to the mix, was Lou Engle, an American evangelical preacher and founder of The Call, a Christian youth movement. At first Engle released a statement distancing himself and his organization from the bill.

“We do not see the character of Christ reflected in some key aspects of the language of the current bill,” said Engle, “therefore The Call, though continuing to be held in Uganda, will not promote this bill.”

However, Engle gave a different message when he came to Kampala and spoke to a religious meeting on May 2 on the sports field of Uganda’s Makerere University.

Speaking to a crowd of about 500 people, Engle said he had not wanted to become embroiled in Uganda's uproar over gay rights.

“We had no idea, that we’d be thrust into a very intense controversy," said Engle. "As I sat down with the pastors, I realized that this was a controversy they never wanted.”

However, Engle went on to offer what many in the crowd interpreted as tacit support for the proposed anti-gay legislation. They punctuated Engle's statements by shouting "Hallelujah" and pumping their fists in the air.

“What I found out is that NGOs, the U.N. and UNICEF were coming in and promoting an agenda that the church of Uganda, did not want to be in this nation," said Engle. "So we’ve come here to join you, to pray that your government has wisdom to uphold righteousness in this land.”

Engle went on to compare Uganda’s controversy over gay rights with that in the U.S. He said Uganda was at the center of the worldwide battle over homosexuality.

“America is losing the religious freedoms ... we are trying to restrain an agenda that is going to hurt the nation and our families. Right now that homosexual agenda is sweeping into our education system and parents are losing their rights over the education of their children," said Engle. "Uganda is ground zero and God brought you to make a statement for righteousness.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill remains with the Ugandan Parliament's Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. Stephen Tashobya, who chairs the committee, has not said when he is likely to start discussion on it.

Editor's note: This dispatch was updated to correct a typographical error.