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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today decried Nigeria's enactment of a new anti-gay law signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nigerian lawmakers approved the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 last year, and Jonathan apparently signed it into law earlier this month without publicizing his signing ceremony.
Johnathan's spokesman Reuben Abati told AFP that the president signed the bill because his citizens wanted it.
"More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same sex marriage. So, the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs as a people,'' Abati said. "And I think that this law is made for a people and what (the) government has done is consistent with the preference of its environment.''
But Kerry pointed out that the bill goes far behind just banning gay marriage or civil unions.
"The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria’s enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act," Kerry said in a statement released by the White House.
"Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.
"Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.
"People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.
"We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights," Kerry concluded.
Amnesty International had urged Jonathan not to sign the bill into law, calling it "discriminatory" and warning that the law would be used to persecute Nigeria's LGBT community. Nigeria, with a population of 175 million, is the most-populous nation in Africa and one of the largest in the world. An estimated 1 million people would be affected by the law.
The new law mandates a 14-year prison sentence for any gay or lesbian couple who marry or enter into a civil union. It also voids those validated abroad where they are legal.
Not happy to stop there, the law added a 10-year prison sentence for anyone gay or straight who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-gender relationship.
For more about LGBT rights in Nigeria, click HERE.