When reciting the Hippocratic Oath, physicians state that it is their duty to treat their patients using their best judgments, no matter the status of their patients. However this was not the case when with Krista and Jami Contreras sought out Dr. Vesna Roi to be the pediatrician for their newborn baby girl.
Bay Contreras was born in October 2014 to her two loving mothers, Krista and Jami (myFoxNewsDetroit). Before Bay’s birth, Krista and Jami had met with Dr. Roi to be Bay’s pediatrician (myFoxNewsDetroit). They were confident in her abilities to provide medical care to their soon to be newborn daughter (myFoxNewsDetroit). Six days after Bay was born, Krista and Jami scheduled an appointment with Dr. Roi (myFoxNewsDetroit). When the Contreras family arrived, another pediatrician informed them that Dr. Roi would not be able to be Bay’s pediatrician (myFoxNewsDetroit). Dr. Roi felt that it was against her religious beliefs to care for a baby with lesbian mothers (myFoxNewsDetroit). The American Medical Association prohibits physicians to refuse care to patients based on sexual orientation, but they can refuse treatment if it conflicts with their personal, religious, or moral beliefs (myFoxNewsDetroit).
Four months after their scheduled appointment, the Contreras’ received a letter for Dr. Roi. In the letter, Dr. Roi apologized for not speaking to the family in person about the issue, but reiterated that she could not care for their daughter, as her religious beliefs would prevent her from developing a personal patient – doctor relationship with the Contreras family (myFoxNewsDetroit).
This explicit display of homophobia – discrimination against gays and lesbians – within a medical context is not exclusive to Krista and Jami Contreras (Aulette and Wittner 528). In 2008, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) conducted a survey that offers insights on the magnitude of challenges that the homosexual community faces while obtaining health services. Most respondents (67%) reported that they received substandard care, or were denied care because of their sexual orientation (Bonuck and Stein 88). Also, many respondents (52%) observed colleagues providing reduced care, or denying care to based on their sexual orientation (Bonuck and Stein 88). These findings confirm the ambivalence that many homosexuals feel towards their health providers.
Our culture has created a social setting where we are socialized to believe that heterosexuality is ‘normal’, this trend is called heteronormativity (Aulette and Wittner 527). Heteronormativity has inhibited our abilities to explore the possibilities of our own sexual orientation – how people identify themselves sexually –, and has limited our opportunities to engage openly with those of different sexual orientations (Aulette and Wittner 533). This normalization of heterosexuality directly marginalizes homosexual persons, which is clearly illustrated through the evidence mentioned above.
When we marginalized homosexuals, we placed them within a sexual minority, which categorizes people whose sexual orientation is not of the dominant heterosexual type (Aulette and Wittner 533). By placing homosexuals within a minority group, their concerns have gone unheard. This has lead to further discrimination within other public realms. For example, the state of Arizona has passed a controversial bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to homosexual customers on religious grounds (Saul). Those who support the bill argue it protects First Amendment rights for expressing religious beliefs, but Democrats have said the law would clearly allow for discrimination against homosexuals (Saul).
Both in the United States and Canada, equality is highly valued. But these routinely practices, have been shaped to reinforce heterosexual privilege, which refers to personal behaviors and public polices that assume that heterosexuality is the only valid form of sexuality (Aulette and Wittner 527). Homosexuals are not benefitting from societal ‘normalcy’ because of the constant heteronormativity that has been perpetuated within our social culture, and even our legislative policies. Krista and Jami cannot sue Dr. Roi because she did nothing illegal, which is precisely the problem. There are few laws that protect the homosexual community from discrimination. Currently only twenty – two of fifty states have laws that prohibit physicians from discriminating against sexual orientation (myFoxNewsDetroit).
Krista and Jami’s encounter with Dr. Roi emphasizes how engrained heteronormativity is within our social structures. I believe that we need to be exposed, and engage with persons of different sexual orientations to understand the complexities of our social structures. The understanding of the constant discrimination against homosexuals will hopefully create more movement towards justice, because in the words of Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public”.
Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Bonuck, Karen. A, and Gary L. Stein. “Physician – Patient Relationships Among the Lesbian and Gay Community”. Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. 5.3 (2008). 87 – 93. Print.
“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same Sex Couple’s Baby”. myFoxNewsDetroit. Fox News Detroit, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
Saul, Heather. “Arizona Passes ‘Anti Gay’ Bill Allowing Business Owners to Refuse Service on Religious Grounds”. The Independent. 22 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.