“Someone You Know and Love is Gay.” That’s the billboard message that tens of thousands of motorists see as they drive daily in Springfield, Missouri, the state’s third-largest city and trade center for the Ozark Mountain region of southwest Missouri. I never thought I would find myself being a fan of billboards, and publicly singing their praises. But three billboards… each proclaiming in bright PFLAG yellow that SOMEONE YOU KNOW & LOVE IS GAY — have been a WONDERFULLY EFFECTIVE CENTERPEICE of PFLAG-Springfield’s mission to counter negative and even hateful attitudes towards L-G-B-T citizens.
Our billboard campaign is part of a larger advocacy effort that gained traction in the summer of 2012, when our city council was thwarted in its effort to amend the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include protections for L-G-B-T citizens. Although adoption of the amendment was imminent –and would have made Springfield the 14th city in Missouri to provide protections– the council backed down in face of intense opposition, mostly from conservative religious groups. PFLAG-Springfield swung into action with a multi-pronged education campaign to inform and educate and ADVOCATE.
We sought to accomplish 3 goals:
- We wanted to prompt opponents of the proposed amendment to consider whether a friend or family member might secretly be L-G-B-T.
- We wanted to remind city council that a significant portion of their constituents are L-G-B-T or have family members who are; and
- We wanted to show support and affirmation to the L-G-B-T community during a time of controversy
While much remains to be done, we know that our work has been successful in two important ways:
- First, our advocacy effort generates calls from opponents to the anti-discrimination ordinance amendment. Callers typically say things like. – ‘Do You know what the Bible says about being gay? OR ‘I would like you to tell me who I know and love who is gay.’This demonstrates that the message is getting them to think: even though their statements may be hurtful and ignorant, the fact that they take the time to call shows that they understand the LGBT community is supported by active and vocal relatives and friends who are willing to work for equality.
- And Second, we receive calls regularly from members of the LGBT community who tell us how grateful they are to receive the affirmation, knowing hey are supported in their work;finally, the campaign has heightened awareness of PFLAG-Springfield among the general public.
In October 2013, our chapter won PFLAG National’s 2013 Chapter Award for Advocacy for our billboard campaign.