President Obama began a tour of Africa today, landing in Senegal, where he gave one of his first comments on gay marriage since yesterday's landmark Supreme Court rulings, at a joint press conference with Macky Sall, the president of Senegal. Obama called the rulings "not simply a victory for the LGBT community" but also "a victory for American democracy." [Supporters of the democratically-enacted DOMA would disagree]. But, as the Washington Blade reports:
Perhaps acknowledging the culture of Senegal, where 96 percent of the population practice Islam, Obama maintained he respects the customs and traditions in different countries.
"The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they're treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa," Obama said. "So I want the African people just to hear what I believe, and that is that every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions. And when it comes to people's personal views and their religious faith, et cetera, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there."
In his response to the question, [Senegal's president Macky] Sall struck a different tone, saying his country won't decriminalize homosexuality as he maintained his country is very tolerant and doesn't believe in discrimination.
"We don't tell anybody that he will not be recruited because he is gay or he will not access a job because his sexual orientation is different," Sall said. "But we are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality. I've already said it in the past, in our Cabinet meeting it is Senegal's option, at least for the time being, while we have respect for the rights of homosexuals — but for the time being, we are still not ready to change the law."
Amnesty International USA is among the activist groups that have pressed Obama to talk about gay rights while in Africa, where it says in four countries homosexuality is still punishable by death.