December 18, 2012
gay marriage pride flag
Same-sex marriage proponent Kat McGuckin of Oaklyn, N.J., holds a gay marriage pride flag in front of the Supreme Court last month (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

As gay men and lesbians in the United States fret over whether the Supreme Court will affirm the humanity and dignity of same-sex couples by granting them the right to marry, Roger Jean-Claude Mbedr frets for his life.

Yesterday, an appeals court in Cameroon upheld his conviction for violating that repressive nation’s anti-gay laws. His offense? He sent a picture of himself holding a sign that read “I’m very much in love w/u” via text message to another man.

Mbédé had already served half of a three-year sentence when he was released from jail in July. Unless the Cameroon supreme court throws out the appeals-court ruling, the 32-year-old man will be tossed back in jail.

“I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons,” he told the Associated Press by telephone. “I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair.”

All this over a text message.

What’s happening to Mbédé in Cameroon and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks in Africa (think Uganda) is a reminder to us all of the great freedoms we enjoy here. Things are by no means perfect. The fight for workplace anti-discrimination laws, marriage equality and other laws that would bring stability and equality to same-sex families is essential to ensuring that equal protection under the law means something. But when people elsewhere are being arrested for texting while gay or for simply being gay, we should count our considerable blessings.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.