While same-sex couples throughout the country can now legally marry, a new campaign by the Alliance for Full Acceptance is raising awareness of the discrimination that many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender newlyweds face.
This month AFFA revealed four new billboard ads on I-26 westbound that tell the story of a newly married lesbian woman through her social media posts. Beginning with a wedding announcement, the billboards follow a woman’s struggle as she and her wife are evicted from their home after their landlord sees the couple’s wedding pictures online. Although this may seem unbelievable to most people, being forced out of your home and job is a very real possibility for same-sex couples in much of the state.
“In terms of housing and accommodations, we have pockets of protection in South Carolina. In the city of Charleston, the city of Folly Beach, the city of North Charleston, we have protections in terms of non-discrimination ordinances for housing and public accommodations. The same is true in Columbia and in Richland County,” says Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the AFFA. “But step outside of those areas and you don’t have it. There is a huge number of people in this state who face the problem of eviction or being denied accommodations like a hotel room because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”
For Redman-Gress, the billboards are about raising awareness and sparking a conversation about the lack of protection for the LGBT community in South Carolina. Although Americans now share marriage equality, he says a continued effort is needed before the country reaches true equality.
“The average married couple, let’s say you’re on your honeymoon and you check into a hotel and all you can think about is spending time with each other. For the LGBT community in many places around South Carolina, they have to worry about actually being allowed to check in,” says Redman-Gress.
According to the AFFA, legislation is being introduced across the country, including here in South Carolina, to allow public and private employees to refuse service of all kinds to LGBT people based on religious beliefs. In January, Sen. Lee Bright introduced a bill to the state Senate that would exempt government employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. Also introduced this year was bill H. 3150, which currently resides in the House Committee on Judiciary. Sponsored by Rep. Garry R. Smith, this bill would make it legal for businesses to refuse goods and services in connection with a same-sex wedding. By continuing the story of a same-sex couple beyond just their wedding, the campaign highlights the everyday challenges these couples face as they try to spend their lives together.
“The boards just sort of scrape the surface of it. For example, even though we have marriage equality, we really don’t have a lived equality in the courts when it comes to families,” says Redman-Gress. “Because there are still family court judges who are making decisions based on their belief that two people of the same gender should not be married. So they’re making decisions about child custody and adoptions and all those kinds of things that the average married couple doesn’t face.”
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