A Michigan pediatrician refused to work with the baby of a same-sex couple, citing her anti-gay religious beliefs. It's another case that highlights the potential dangers of conservative media's campaign to champion “religious freedom” in the face of anti-gay discrimination.
In October of 2014, Krista and Jami Contreras brought their six-day-old baby Bay Windsor to meet her pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan. The couple, who legally married in Vermont in 2012, soon discovered that Roi had refused to come into the office and see them, citing her religious beliefs. The couple was instead met by a different pediatrician, who they had not selected.
Four months later, they received a letter from Roi apologizing and explaining her decision:
After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. I felt that was not fair to the two of you or to Bay.
Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.
The Contreras incident is yet another example of the dangerous consequences of right-wing media's campaign to justify anti-gay discrimination under the banner of religious liberty. For years, conservative media have used “religious liberty” as a rallying cry while lobbying against basic legal protections for LGBT people. Now, in the face of a potential Supreme Court loss on the issue of same-sex marriage, “religious liberty” has become the central argument for a number of state RFRA bills promoted by right-wing media that would greatly expand the right of businesses and individuals to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds.
Roi's refusal to work with the Contreras family is not illegal - though it does violate the rules of the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, which both strongly oppose discriminating against patients on the basis of sexual orientation. Nor is what happened to the Contreras family an isolated incident. Studies have found that LGBT people face high rates of discrimination in health care, especially in states that have adopted "broad religious exemptions" from medical non-discrimination laws:
Conservative media have endlessly peddled horror stories of wedding photographers, florists, and bakers who were legally prohibited from refusing to offer their services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. But as the Contreras family's experience demonstrates, the right-wing insistence on broad religious liberty protections could impact far more than just same-sex weddings.