The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs said this morning that President Obama needs to avoid setting “a dangerous precedent for America’s foreign policy” by letting countries that pass anti-gay laws not face serious repercussions.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today signed into law a bill that hands down a sentence of life in prison for many same-sex acts.

Originally dubbed the “kill the gays bill” for its death penalty provisions, the legislation was passed in the Ugandan parliament in December with the capital punishment reduced to life imprisonment.

Also receiving prison time under the bill would be those who don’t report gays to the government or any organizations or individuals that support gay rights. Ugandans can also be sentenced for attempted homosexual acts or same-sex activity committed outside the country.

“The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons are universal human rights and deserve to be respected around the world,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said. “The shameful Anti-Homosexuality Bill that President Museveni signed into law today goes far beyond discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and makes homosexual conduct punishable with life in prison. It promotes a climate of oppression and fear, and is an unconscionable violation of fundamental freedoms and universal standards for human rights.”

“The enactment of this law is another sad chapter in a disturbing trend against personal freedom in Uganda, including crackdowns on independent media and political dissent. While I recognize and value Uganda’s leadership in promoting stability in the region, the United States must not stand by as democratic values and humanitarian principles are increasingly disregarded by Uganda’s political leadership. Promoting universal human rights, including freedom of speech, association, religion and press, must remain a fundamental component of our work as a nation,” he added.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice phoned Museveni last weekend to try to convince him not to sign the bill, and Obama warned in a special statement that “enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.”

Coons noted that two years ago Obama promised “that it would be the policy of the United States government to more closely tie our diplomatic and development efforts to human rights.”

“America’s foreign policy can and should be led by its values, including the protection of basic human rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” the senator said.

“This law is a setback for human rights around the world and will endanger Uganda’s relationship with the United States. There should be consequences for such action, not just in Uganda, but also in Nigeria, Russia, and anywhere else in the world where LGBT rights and other human rights are being legally restricted. America’s rhetoric must now be met with action. For there to be no diplomatic or developmental consequence for the enactment of these laws would be to set a dangerous precedent for America’s foreign policy.”

While signing the bill, Museveni called the international outcry “an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values.”

“We’re sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live but we keep quiet about it,” Museveni said.