Article Number: 49941
Jeremy Martin contributed to this report
After initially refusing to accept billboards from a group that supports an inclusive civil rights ordinance in Holland, CBS Outdoor will run billboards in and around Grand Rapids that contain the pro-LGBT message “…With Liberty and Justice for _____.”
The billboards are the latest project of Until Love Is Equal, an organization that emerged after the Holland city council rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation as one of the protected classes. By a vote of 5 to 4 on June 15, the council voted to reject the unanimous recommendation of its human rights commission to approve the ordinance. Mayor Kurt Dykstra was the no vote breaking a then 4-4 tie on the issue.
A spokesperson for the New York based CBS Outdoor said that the company did not refuse the billboards, but that there was a “misunderstanding” when the group initially requested billboard space. Michael Tuffelmire, co-leader of Until Love Is Equal, said he was first told by his contact at the CBS Outdoor office in Grand Rapids the company would not accept their billboards because they feared the pro-LGBT message would alienate some of their existing clients.
It appears that when management in New York learned of the situation, they instructed the Grand Rapids office to reverse their decision.
“We were shocked in the beginning when they turned us down,” said Tuffelmire, who had worked with CBS Outdoor on behalf of other non-profit groups. “We are so glad that CBS (now) wants to work with us. They have come out and offered us really prime places in the city at a very excellent rate.”
Until Love is Equal was founded by Erin Wilson initially as an online community of people who shared their outrage after the Holland city council voted down the ordinance. The online group swelled to over 3,000 people in just a few months. Until Love Is Equal has now expanded beyond cyberspace into the real world, hosting its first Gala event Oct. 22, attracting over 80 people to the Piper Restaurant just west of Holland. The event included a silent auction with items donated from 40 west Michigan businesses, one of which was Herman Miller.
Wilson and Tuffelmire have used a combination of marketing savvy and social media expertise to propel Until Love is Equal into the public eye.
“We’ve used PSAs. Facebook, Twitter, yard signs, word of mouth, apparel – apparel is a big deal for us – and I’ve written a lot about this and published wherever possible,” Wilson said.
The new group has taken some of the limelight from Holland is Ready, a group formed over a year ago that worked towards passage of the ordinance. Despite some initial friction on tactics, leaders of both groups recognized that they are working towards the same goal.
“We…recognize that successful movements for change generally contain several different groups with slightly different approaches to making that change,” said Jennifer Adams, a Reverend at Grace Episcopal Church and the convener of Holland is Ready. “Together we have a relatively broad audience (but) separately we can speak in ways those audiences can hear. Hopefully, in the long run the collective push moves this community forward.”
“The tools and tactics may be a little different, but the end goal is exactly the same, and that’s perfect because if we were all doing the same thing we would reach fewer people,” Wilson said.