Springfield, Missouri’s PFLAG chapter won PFLAG National’s 2013 Chapter Award for
Advocacy for a successful billboard campaign, a campaign which continues to promote positive change in the Ozarks community.
Thousands of Ozarks motorists view the three billboards during daily commutes. Springfield, Missouri’s third-largest city, is a trade center for the Ozark Mountain region of southwest Missouri. Each billboard contains a thought provoking message such as Someone You Know and Love is Gay and Someone You Know and Love can be Fired for Being Gay.
The billboard campaign began as advocacy effort which gained traction in the summer of 2012 when Springfield City Council’s effort to amend the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include protections for L-G-B-T citizens was defeated. Although adoption of the amendment was imminent––and would have made Springfield the 14th Missouri city to provide protections––the council backed down in face of intense opposition, mostly from conservative religious groups.
As a result, PFLAG-Springfield initiated a multi-pronged education campaign to inform, educate and advocate. The billboards have become an effective centerpiece of PFLAG-Springfield’s mission and accomplish three goals:
- To prompt opponents of the proposed amendment to reflect whether a friend or family member might secretly be L-G-B-T
- To remind city council that a significant portion of constituents are L-G-B-T or family members of L-G-B-T
- To demonstrate support and affirmation to the L-G-B-T community during a time of controversy.
PFLAG-Springfield knows the billboards are successful by the feedback received through phone calls of individuals reacting to the billboards:
- First, the advocacy effort generates calls from opponents to the anti-discrimination ordinance amendment. Callers typically say, “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 the message is getting critics to think: even though the statements may be hurtful and ignorant, the act of calling demonstrates an understanding that the LGBT community is supported by active and vocal relatives and friends who are working for equality.
- Second, members of the LGBT community call regularly and share gratitude for the affirmation, knowing they are supported in their work.
- Third, the campaign has heightened awareness of PFLAG-Springfield among the general public who drive daily past the highly visible billboards.
Most recently, PFLAG has updated the message on our new digital billboard located in the Galleria Shopping Center, 1550 E Battlefield in Springfield. It now alternates between the familiar Someone you know and love is gay to Someone you know and love is transgender.