After Obergefell v. Hodges made marriage equality the law of the land in 2015, many believed the ultimate, progressive step had been achieved for LGBTQ Americans. While the landmark civil rights case was an overdue step in the right direction, it didn't cover all the bases. In 31 states, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against members of the LGBT community seeking housing, jobs, and medical care. And three states—Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina—have laws preventing the passage of nondiscrimination legislation at the local level.
For an example of how this plays out in towns all over the country, look no further than the heartbreaking story one couple is now sharing as part of a new LGBT Acceptance campaign called “Beyond I Do,” which launched this week.
Michiganders Krista and Jami Contreras tied the knot in 2012. When they joyfully welcomed their first child, a daughter named Bay, into the world three years ago, they chose a pediatrician. But upon bringing their newborn in for her first appointment, the doctor refused them medical care, citing the couple's sexual orientation as her reason.
Krista, Jami, their daughter Bay, and their 10-month-old son Sylas appear in one "Beyond I Do" PSA, offering an up close and personal glimpse of what they tell Parents.com was a "humiliating" experience.
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"It was an out of body experience," Jami explains to Parents.com, sharing that she and Krista took "so many steps" to preempt an incident exactly like this one. They actually moved more than three hours away from their original location, did their homework, and made it clear to their doctors from the start that they're a two-mom family and both very involved parents. So, after all that, having to contend with such blatant, distressing discrimination was especially "horrific."
"As any parent knows, you’re going to that first visit to get reassurance," Jami notes. "You’re new to this parenting thing, you’re pretty much scared out of your mind you’re going to break this newborn baby. You want someone to reassure you that you’re loving your child, she’s healthy and she’s happy, and to keep doing what you’re doing. [But] we left with questions and fear instead of reassurance at all. We were left with this doubt, asking ourselves what could we have done to prevent this. There was no preventing this. There was nothing we could have done. We did everything we could do."
Because they had already driven a half hour to the office, wanted their child to receive care, and didn't know how long it would take them to get an appointment at another office lined up, they went through with the appointment, during which another doctor in the practice examined Bay. On their way out the door, the woman at the front desk asked if they wanted to make a follow-up. "I said, 'No, we won’t actually be back,'" Jami recalls. "She said, 'Yeah, I definitely understand.' That caught me off-guard. It was humiliating." And on the way home, the new moms "fought back tears."
Initially, the couple held off on sharing what had happened. "We didn’t actually say anything right away, because as new parents you’re really busy, and you’re adjusting to a new life and new schedules and new everything," Jami explains.
But when they were finally ready to share their heart-wrenching experience with loved ones, there was a noticeable difference between how their gay friends reacted versus their straight ones. "We'd tell other friends who are also gay, and they’d be like, 'That's horrible,' and they were there for us, and they understood, but it wasn’t as shocking to them," Jami notes. "When we told our straight friends, they were appalled and disgusted and outraged." And that's because they couldn't believe that what had happened was 100% legal.
"Everyone we told there was like, 'There's no way this is legal,' and we were like, 'Yeah, it is, it is,'" Krista shares. She and Jami have both noticed that there's a lot of confusion around the fact that despite Obergefell v. Hodges, the LGBTQ community is "still fighting for the same rights as everyone else."
"We have to be careful on what school we choose for our kid, what restaurants we go to, when we hold hands in public, what doctor we choose," Jami says. "We have to always be mindful that they have a right to not treat us or see us or serve us. My employer could fire me just for being gay. [And] we're just real parents trying to raise two amazing kids."
Eventually, Krista took to Facebook and wrote a post about the experience, and it quickly went viral. One thing lead to another, with the couple sharing their story on the local news, and now, as a part of the "Beyond I Do" campaign. Their hope is that their experience will start conversations and spread awareness.
“As loving parents all across the nation like Jami and Krista are trying so hard to provide a safe and healthy life for their children, they're being evicted from their homes, fired from their jobs, and denied basic services just because they are LGBT," Lisa Sherman, Ad Council CEO, tells Parents.com. "By introducing the country to these powerful stories, this campaign will go a long way towards creating a more accepting environment for LGBT Americans.”
Jami and Krista reiterate that important message. "Get involved locally, and just talk to neighbors, friends, people at a restaurant," Jami advises. "Open up and have a dialogue about it. Share your support outwardly. It does change hearts and minds."