(No) Fight for Justice

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”.

~ graceelisabeth


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.

4 thoughts on “(No) Fight for Justice

  1. lesg1249 says:

    Your summary of your article was really well written and led into a great discussion of homophobia in today’s society. I liked how you brought in statistics about gay and lesbian medical treatment. For me, it would have been interesting to know whether the physicians that gave substandard care also followed a religion that discriminates against homosexuals or if there are other intersecting factors creating this discrimination. Its interesting that you connected heteronormativity and the exploration of sexual orientation. It is a point that I would not have seen until you mentioned it. It really makes me think about how it is true that heteronormativity is creating an environment where exploration, in a sense, is considered wrong. I like how you also mentioned heterosexual privilege, because in this scenario in your article and your statistics, health care is considered a privilege only to heterosexual people. Overall great job and I enjoyed the connections you made to course material!


  2. foster.s says:

    I really enjoyed your second blog post! You did a very good job on summarizing what topic you chose, although for next time focus more on the ‘point’ of the post rather than the background information. The 5 terms you used to emphasize themes in your article were very relevant to the topic of heteronormativity and homophobia. Great job with those!
    I liked that you used relevant statistics so that the reader can get a better understanding for what you mean by “many” and “most” people. Great work!!


  3. tlapp30 says:

    I really enjoyed your post, and the way it led into a discussion about the levels of homophobia that is found everywhere in our society today. Before reading this post, I never fully understood the extent to which basic rights that I have in this world are taken away from other people, just based solely on their sexual orientation. Your discussion about the lack of laws regarding medical attention to these people is clearly defined, and the facts that you used to outline your argument left me shocked. I personally cannot fathom the idea of turning a human away from medical attention just because of who they are. Overall, I think you did a great job of outlining this article and connecting it to a major issue that is sometimes overlooked! Great job!


  4. 12eg22 says:

    This was an excellent post. I thought it’s strengths primarily laid in the way that you situated the specific example of Baby Bae within a broader context of systemic oppression. The research you included around other cases of medical discrimination were shocking. These statistics made me think a lot about the serious permanent impacts of systemic oppression. When it comes to medical discrimination, these are truly issues of life and death. The institutionalization of homophobia allows for the state to decide who gets to be healthy on the basis of sexual orientation. I agree with your conclusion that the laws need to change in order to prevent these cases from happening; but I also appreciated the way you recognized it stretches beyond the law and into our culture. In the future, I would reconsider using the word “homosexuals” to describe people from the queer community. It has a history of being used in a clinical and derogatory way. I found this article in the New York Times really instructive: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/fashion/gays-lesbians-the-term-homosexual.html?_r=1

    Thank you for a great post!


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