Obama delivered a strong message of gay and lesbian acceptance to the nation of his father's birth, advocating against discrimation due to sexual orientation as part of a three-day trip to Kenya this weekend, which marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited the African country, reports USA Today.
At a press conference Saturday alongside Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, about relations between the two nations, Obama said he was "unequivocal" of his support of the idea that people being "treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong."
"I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law, that they are deserving of equal protection under the law, that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation," he said
Obama referenced slavery and Jim Crow laws in the United States, saying he was "painfully aware of the history when people are treated differently under the law."
"That's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen," he stated. "When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread."
Currently, sex between men in Kenya is illegal, and may be punishable by a maximum of 14 years in prison. Violence against members of the LGBT community is also commonplace.
Kenyatta, however, still considers the nation lack of LGBT rights a "non-issue."
"The fact of the matter is Kenya and the U.S. share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families. These are some things that we share," the African president said at the news conference. "But there are some things that we must admit we don't share, [and that] our culture, our societies don't accept."
Prior to his trip, the Obama administration said the president would discuss LGBT rights in Kenya, despite protests and a call from local leaders for a gag order on the topic.
Watch the press conference below: