Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill on Monday that criminalises same-sex relationships, defying western pressure over gay rights and provoking US criticism. The bill, which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex "amorous relationships" and membership of gay rights groups, was passed by the national assembly last May but Jonathan had delayed signing it into law. A presidential spokesman told Reuters he had now done so. As in much of sub-Saharan Africa , anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria, so the new legislation is likely to be popular. Jonathan is expected to seek re-election in but is under pressure after several dozen lawmakers and a handful of regional governors defected to the opposition in the past two months. Under existing Nigerian federal law, sodomy is punishable by jail, but this bill legislates for a much broader crackdown on homosexual people, who live a largely underground existence.
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Desperate to shed the label of Massachusetts liberal, Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry claims that his position on homosexual marriage is the same as that of Vice President Dick Cheney. In the past, Cheney did say that it was a matter that should probably be left with the states. But that opinion was uttered before the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered the legislature to give marriage benefits to homosexuals, and before the implications of this decision were considered on a national basis. Last November Kerry urged the state legislature to comply with what the Massachusetts Supreme Court had said and impose civil unions. Kerry said he favored civil unions but opposed homosexual marriage.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ignited a nationwide debate in late when it ruled that the state must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Almost overnight, same-sex marriage became a major national issue, pitting religious and social conservatives against gay-rights advocates and their allies. Over the next year, the ensuing battle over gay marriage could be heard in the halls of the U. Congress, in dozens of state legislatures and in the rhetoric of election campaigns at the national and state level. The debate over same-sex marriage shows no signs of abating.