On the eve of the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage in the United States, members of Congress made a sparse showing at Capitol Visitor Center screening of "Born This Way," a new documentary on the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Cameroon whose title is a direct reference to Lady Gaga's pro-LGBT anthem.
The film follows a chapter in the lives of Cedric and Gertrude, Cameroonians who claim in the film to have faced violence in the streets and persecution under the law for being homosexual in their home country. During a time when LGBT rights are at the forefront of politics in Washington, directors Sean Kadlec and Deb Tullmann brought their film to the Capitol Visitor Center without a legislative goal in mind, Kadlec said.
“[We’re] trying to get people to look a little bit outside of the United States at these issues and understand what it’s like for the people who are living there,” he continued.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., appeared before the screening to thank the filmmakers and Alice Nkom, the Cameroonian human rights lawyer who takes on many of the anti-homosexuality cases in her country and is a prominent feature in the film. Other members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus were invited to attend, but only Takano and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, another California Democrat, showed.
Takano left during a portion of the screening to give remarks on the House floor, and he said afterward that floor votes likely accounted for the dearth of attendance among his colleagues.
Takano, one of six co-chairmen of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, demurred when asked how Congress might start to look abroad on these issues.
“I don’t know what that means yet,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of things to focus on here.”
Takano pointed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as legislation by Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., to modify the records of service members discharged for homosexuality during the "don’t ask, don’t tell" era, and federal anti-bullying legislation.
After the screening, Nkom mentioned Rosa Parks and Browder v. Gayle, which ended segregation on public transportation in the wake of Rosa Parks’ arrest in 1955, as examples for homosexuals’ present struggle in Cameroon.
“I think we have to continue to lead by example,” Takano said. “People do look to our country as a source of inspiration.”