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To be whipped and beaten because of who you are, in Nigeria

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He was whipped twenty times across the back. He probably thought it would never end. The people outside the courtroom said that the punishment was not enough, that he should be stoned to death. What did this man, convicted in Nigeria, do exactly? Rape or murder someone? Well, he had consensual sex with another man.

In Abuja, the nation's capital, a mob armed with iron bars and wooden clubs, dragged 14 gay men from their homes to a police station where they were beaten and kicked by police. They were threatened with 14 years in prison.

If you state that gays should be free from violence in Nigeria, you will be jailed. Any support or activism for gay rights in Nigeria, Uganda or even Russia, is a crime.

What motivates this kind of hate and violence? A few things, but one of them is a fundamentalist view of religion that teaches people to despise and hate gays with an intensity that makes Fred Phelps, who protests gay funerals, look tame in comparison.

Gays don't suffer such institutional violence in the U.S., though they are still victims of random anti-gay attacks. But religion in the U.S. often teaches they should be despised and hated. Christians and Muslims in nations like Nigeria are united by one thing, their hatred of those who are gay.

We don't see this degree of hatred in the U.S. because even the Enlightenment has affected positively even the most religious in America. Why we allow religion to teach us to hate those different then ourselves, I will never know.

By the way, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is one of the few international organizations devoted to supporting human rights throughout the world. We are on the cusp of full equality for gays in the U.S., there is strong majority support in the U.S. for marriage equality for example, but the situation in much of the world is just awful for gays and their supporters.

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