It’s been nearly three years since the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges gave same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states. Yet despite that momentous progress, LGBTQ people across the country still lack basic protection from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations (such as being denied service at a business).
If that strikes you as surprising and unfair, then you’re exactly who the Ad Council is trying to reach with a new campaign called “Beyond I Do.” The initiative, which launched Tuesday, includes two PSAs that focus on happily married same-sex couples who continued to face various types of discrimination after their nuptials. A website named after the campaign features stories documenting that discrimination, and offers users resources to learn more about what types of discrimination are legal in many states.
In one minute-long campaign spot, the camera lingers on Krista and Jami Contreras on their wedding day in 2012 — a “surreal moment” of happiness — and then it shows them again, years later, as doting parents.
But in 2014, when their daughter was just six days old, their pediatrician cited “prayer” when explaining why she decided against taking on their infant as a patient. The incident drew national outrage and media coverage.
In Michigan, where their prospective pediatrician practiced, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination when it comes to providing services to LGBTQ people. The American Medical Association’s code of ethics also permits physicians to “act (or refrain from acting) in accordance with the dictates of their conscience without violating their professional obligations.”
Krista Contreras’ message in the new PSA is simple: “We’re simply asking to treat our family the same way that you would treat any family.”
“We’re simply asking to treat our family the same way that you would treat any family.”
What happened to the couple could easily happen elsewhere in the U.S. Twenty-eight states permit discrimination against someone in housing or employment on the basis of their sexual orientation, and 30 states allow discrimination based on a person’s gender identity.
In 31 states, there is no prohibition of discriminating against someone in public accommodations because of their gender identity. Twenty-nine states have no protection from public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Yet according to some public polling, many voters believe it’s illegal under federal law to fire, evict, or refuse to serve someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, no federal law explicitly protects LGBTQ people from such bias.
Heidi Arthur, head of campaign development for the Ad Council, says “Beyond I Do” is an effort to raise Americans’ awareness about the extent of LGBTQ discrimination.
Arthur says that the new campaign, which was produced in partnership with the Gill Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to “equality for LGBT Americans,” is designed to prompt empathy from its audience by sharing stories from people who face “hardship and devastation” as a result of discrimination.
Research conducted by the Williams Institute, a think tank based at UCLA Law, has found that stigma and bias are associated with heightened economic instability and poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people.
Christy Mallory, state and local policy director for the Williams Institute, says legislatures that have yet to pass LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws are often “lagging behind the beliefs of their constituents” who support protections from bias in employment and other areas. More than three-quarters of people surveyed in the U.S. by the advocacy group GLAAD last year said they supported “equal rights” for LGBTQ people.
Now the question is how to get those people, and others, to support new legal protections in their state. Participating in the “Beyond I Do” campaign might just be one of the first critical steps they can take toward making equal rights for all LGBTQ people a reality.