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BY AJ TRAGER
DEARBORN HEIGHTS – Billboards around the state are starting to showcase messages of love and inclusion instead of messages of hate.
Where an anti-LGBT billboard once stood on Telegraph Road, a new advertisement of equality now stands with the message: “God Loves Gays.” The advertisement, hosted by thegoodlordabove.com, was put up on June 21, just five days before SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality, and is a part of a national fundraising effort to “show everyone that all humans are equal and loved by God.”
The group called TheGoodLordAbove has purchased ad space all over the U.S. with the message “God Loves Gays” to show the country that “all humans are equal to God,” the youcaring.com page reads.
“There are so many young LGBTQ kids who face daily bullying just for who they are page. Sadly all too often LGBTQ teens take their own lives due to the extreme lack of acceptance they face from their family, religious institution or bigoted bullies. It is extremely important that this message of love is spread throughout the world,” says the Web page.
TheGoodLordAbove wants to put up two more ads in Sterling Heights and Detroit to promote inclusion.
“The billboard’s message of love and acceptance is a powerful and welcome counter-statement,” said Darrious Hilmon, Affirmations Executive Director. “When all is said and done, love will win out over hate.”
Tom Giesken, the owner of the billboard, told BTL that the contract for the previous ad had reached the end of its allotted time. The controversial billboard had read, “Homosexuality is a choice. Not a civil right,” and listed two Bible verses: Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5. The sponsoring group, RestrainTheJudges, did not pursue purchasing additional ad space.
In response to the RestrainTheJudges’ billboard, local man Ferman Smith launched a GoFundMe campaign in May titled “Stand Up Against RestrainTheJudges” to “show everyone that we are all equal and are not separable due to our ethnicity or sexual orientation, but that we are all human and seek equal treatment for everyone in our land.”
Smith launched his own billboard campaign on June 22 in three locations after receiving $8,626 in donations from equality supporters across the state.
“I wanted the logo to be simple but powerful. I didn’t want to put up anything controversial. I didn’t want anyone to feel oppressed,” Smith said.
Smith’s #DetroitForEquality billboards are now visible on southbound US-24 just south of I-96, northbound US-24 just south of I-96 and M-10 at Livernois Road. The ads will be up through the end of July.
“The biggest thing I want people to know is how thankful I am that I was able to get involvement from the community,” Smith said. “I would love to see more things like this in the future.”
After his initial team fell through and failed to return his phone calls, Smith received help with billboard advertising and media plans from Candice Simons and Emily Nelson of Brooklyn Outdoor Advertising, based in Detroit, with the logo designed by Patrick Thornton of TMV Group.
“They definitely helped make this possible,” said Smith. “It really meant something to me because they really believed in the cause.”