Advertising executives have recently realized something that those of us in the LGBT community have long known: That recognizing our families is meaningful. And it doesn't just mean something to us; the overture affects our friends and family and, even more importantly, helps those who don't understand us to recognize themselves in our lives.
Many have seen the new Tiffany's ad that features a gay couple. Before Tiffany's, there was Cheerios. And before Cheerios, there was Chevrolet, Honey Maid and Coca-Cola. Many, if not all, of these ads feature (gasp!) gay or lesbian couples living lives exactly the same as straight couples. It is as if there were regular magazine pieces titled "Gays -- They're Just Like You!"
Although the Tiffany's ad received significant publicity (and social media buzz), there was another quieter but, in my opinion, more significant ad that was released last week in Illinois. The ad -- sponsored by Get Covered Illinois -- tells the story of Jake and Allen who got married in Illinois last year, shortly after the state began recognizing same-sex marriage. As a married couple, they signed up for health insurance as a family. After they signed up, Jake got appendicitis. Watch their story here:
Why does this matter? To my knowledge, Illinois is the first marketplace to develop and run paid TV ads that feature and target members of the LGBT community. The implication is awesome: state officials were not only seeking to recognize same-sex couples, but they also wanted to celebrate them. What this ad tells us--loud and clear--is that LGBT families should be part of the mainstream discourse, and a recognized part of Illinois' community. It was less than one year ago that the state of Illinois asserted the equality of same-sex marriages in their state with a legislative vote. Now, they are including our stories in their advertising campaign about one of the most important and highly-visible public policy issues in the state and nation.
Beyond the symbolism, the substance and topic of the ad are also critical. Our community remains far more likely to be without health insurance. Last year, one in four of our low and middle income LGBT family and friends were uninsured. This is far higher than the number of uninsured non-LGBT people, and continues to be one of the reasons that health is an equality issue.
It is on us to address our community's health and wellness. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many institutional barriers and challenges have been eased or removed. Financial help is available to those who need it; discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is banned, and preexisting medical conditions like depression, diabetes or HIV/AIDS do not prohibit coverage. And, perhaps most helpful for many, Obamacare recognizes our relationships. Jake and Allen would have had the same experience in any state, not just Illinois. Any couple who gets married in any state that recognizes same-sex marriage is eligible to receive financial help and enroll in family coverage through www.HealthCare.gov. This is true, even if you live in a state that doesn't yet recognize same-sex marriage, like Alabama or Texas.
Answers for why our community is plagued with lower rates of coverage are many, and many have merit. But, regardless -- each of us can help address this in our communities and in our friends' lives simply by talking about the realities of health, wellness and health care. If you have insurance, tell your friends to get it, too. Take the one click to share Jake and Allen's story with those you love and visit HealthCare.gov to learn what plans and subsidies you could receive.
Although Tiffany's diamonds are pretty, health insurance can save a friend's life.