In October 2014, mothers Krista and Jami Contreras took their six-day-old baby, Bay to an appointment with their Pediatrician Dr. Vesna Roi. The Michigan women stated that upon arrival at the clinic, they were greeted by a different Pediatrician, Dr. Karam, who told the couple that Dr. Roi now felt she was unable to care for Bay. Dr. Roi made it clear that after a long period of reflection, she decided that the because of her discomfort with the sexual orientation of Bay’s mothers, she would not have “been able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships” that she normally does with her patients (“Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby”). Luckily, the Contreras family was able to find a new pediatric clinic which was both inclusive towards parents within the LGBTQ community, and provided a high level of care to baby Bay. The problem, however, is that Dr. Roi is completely within her rights to deny her services to the new-born child, as certain U.S. legislation protects her discrimination against this couple. This is emblematic of a larger problem within the United States; that government legislation has failed to adequately advocate for the rights of same sex couples to the point where the systematic discrimination and oppression of this minority group is protected by law.
According to the American Medical Association, a doctor cannot refuse care based on the sexual orientation of their patient. They can, however, refuse to treat a person if the Doctor claims that it is incompatible with their personal, religious or moral beliefs (“Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby”). This condition effectively provides a loophole within the Medical Association’s non-discriminatory policy, as homophobic doctors can easily cite religious or moral reasons for not treating a gay person, thus legally denying medical treatment for queer bodies. Thankfully there were other, less exclusionary doctors in the Michigan area to care for Bay, but it raises concerns about care for queer bodies in more remote areas, where an entire community may only have access to a single doctor. In extreme situations this could mean that a queer person, or their child could be in serious danger, risking long-term injury or even death if they are denied access to immediate medical care. At this point, it violates Articles 25 (1) in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which maintains that every person has the right to adequate medical care (“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”). This blatant discrimination needs to be addressed in legislation, so that Doctors have no way to legally deny queer bodies their basic human rights.
Dana Nessel, an attorney currently working on Michigan’s same sex marriage case, was made aware of the Contreras family’s situation. Nessel explained that the problem of queer discrimination legislation goes much further than the American Medical Association. She noted that there are not currently any laws in place that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families from discrimination in any facets of life (“Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby”). On top of this, she mentioned a piece of legislation currently in the senate called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, which she believes would allow for blatant discrimination of minority groups if a certain religion does not condone the group’s specific way of life. Since many queer lifestyles have been condemned in Holy Texts such as the Bible and Qur’an, Nessel is confident that queer bodies will be subject to further, and completely legal discrimination (“Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby”). NOLO, an online American legal encyclopedia has published an article on Sexual Orientation Discrimination. In the article it states “attempts to pass federal legislation that would outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in private workplaces have been unsuccessful to date” (“Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Your Rights”). Meaning that queer bodies cannot even expect to be free from discrimination in the workplace.
Another blatant example of legislative discrimination against the queer-community in the United States is the ban on same sex marriage. Although many states have repealed this law in recent years, in 13 of the 50 states it is illegal to for same sex couples to wed (“37 States with Legal Gay Marriage and 13 States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans”). Not being able to legally wed deprives same sex couples of the many benefits that result from a marriage. Tax credits, social security, employment, medical, and death benefits are just some of the amenities awarded to legally wed couples in the United States (“Marriage Rights and Benefits”). Not only are same sex couples in 13 states deprived of those benefits, but they are also deprived of a sense of official legitimacy surrounding their union. They are not afforded the same peace of mind and societal acceptance as a straight couple, a group who undoubtedly holds a cultural hegemony when it comes to relationships.
In conclusion, power structures in the United States have categorically failed same sex citizens. Both government legislation and legislation from powerful bodies, such as the American Medical Association, have failed to adequately protect queer bodies from discrimination. It is tough to not feel feelings of compassion for newborn Bay Contreras, who will see her mothers, and other queer Americans, be the target of systemic discrimination due to neglect from legislative powers.
“37 States with Legal Gay Marriage and 13 States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans – Gay Marriage – ProCon.org.” 37 States with Legal Gay Marriage and 13 States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans. Procon.org. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://gaymarriage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004857>.
“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” Fox 2 News Headlines. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby>.
“Marriage Rights and Benefits | Nolo.com.” Nolo.com. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html>.
“Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Your Rights | Nolo.com.” Nolo.com. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/sexual-orientation-discrimination-rights-29541.html>.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights.” UN News Center. United Nations. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/>.