BY RODNEY MUHUMUZA
KAMPALA, Uganda -- A Ugandan court on Friday invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, saying the measure is illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum.
The panel of five judges on the East African country's Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections — including from the country's prime minister — over a lack of a quorum when the bill was passed on Dec. 20.
"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was a quorum," the court said in its ruling. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally."
The ruling was made before a courtroom packed with Ugandans opposing or supporting the measure. Activists erupted in loud cheers after the court ruled the law is now "null and void."
The anti-gay measure provided for jail terms of up to life for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. It also allowed lengthy jail terms for those convicted of the offenses of "attempted homosexuality" as well as "promotion of homosexuality."
Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan gay leader, said the ruling Friday was a "step forward" for gay rights even though he was concerned about possible retaliation.