KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) -- A Ugandan court on Friday invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, pleasing activists and watchdog groups who called the measure draconian and wanted it repealed.<br />
The Constitutional Court declared the law illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum.<br />
Activists erupted in cheers after the court ruled the law "null and void," but some cautioned that the fight was not over: The state could appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court and legislators might try to reintroduce new anti-gay measures. Also, a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex acts "against the order of nature" still remains in effect in Uganda, allowing for continued arrests.<br />
The invalidated law provided 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."<br />
Although the legislation has wide support in Uganda, it has been condemned in the West.<br />
The U.S. has withheld or redirected funding to some Ugandan institutions accused of involvement in rights abuses, but the ruling Friday might win the Ugandan delegation a softer landing in the U.S. next week as it heads to Washington for a gathering led by President Barack Obama.<br />
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.
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