A new campaign from NYC Pride and Havas New York is targeting U.S. lawmakers responsible for recent anti-LGBTQIA+ bills—with the help of queer literature and fax machines.
The “#BurytheBills” campaign raises awareness about legislation that jeopardizes the rights of sexual minority groups. It kicked off on June 26th, the day of the Pride March, with out-of-home ads outlining the bills and calling out lawmakers responsible for them.
One, for example, reads “Rep. Ehrhart is trying to punish who perform sex-related surgeries,” referring to Georgia House Bill 401 by Rep. Ginny Ehrhart. The billboards also included a QR code that, once scanned, would fax the lawmakers pages of queer literature, published by Penguin Random House.
Havas chose to target fax machines because they are the official method of correspondence of state lawmakers, who are legally prohibited from turning them off.. Emails, on the other hand, can be categorized as spam, while ringing phones can be ignored. The intended result? Piles of queer literature in the lawmakers’ offices, physically and metaphorically “burying” the anti-LGBTQIA+ bills—and hopefully, changing some of those lawmakers’ minds. According to Havas, within the first day of the campaign, nearly 600,000 pages of faxes were sent to 41 fax numbers of 50 targeted lawmakers.
"Sadly, years of progress to advance LGBTQIA+ rights can be reversed seemingly overnight as homophobia and transphobia prevails in many state legislatures, particularly in southern parts of the country," said Dan Lucey, chief creative officer of Havas New York in a statement. "The goal of this campaign is to call out the bills currently in front of Congress and give marchers a platform to immediately take action and make their voices heard in a way politicians literally can't tune out."
Rep. Ehrhart, as well as other targeted lawmakers including Rep. Wesley Allen (AL), Sen. Frank Niceley (TN), Rep. Timothy Dukes (DE), and Sen. Elaine Morgan (RI), did not respond to Ad Age’s request for comment.
The campaign has attracted attention from several celebrities and changemakers. USA Today photographed TV personality Ts Madison holding a #BuryTheBills cardboard. Genie of “RuPaul’s Drag Race Thailand” tweeted about the campaign on Monday morning. Other notable influencers who posted stories about "#BuryTheBills" include Sizzy Rocket, India Brooks, Holly Burt, and Blaze Brooks.
"Our mission as an organization is to work toward a future without discrimination where all people have equal rights under the law,” added Bansri Manek, march director at NYC Pride. “This activation does just that and fits perfectly into our 2022 theme, 'Unapologetically Us,' which focuses on the importance of LGBTQIA+ individuals standing together and proudly living their truth in the face of social justice issues and legislation that directly attacks their community."
The queer literature is excerpted from "Rainbow Milk" by Paul Mendez; "I Know You Know Who I Am" by Peter Kispert, "When Katie Met Cassidy: by Camille Perri; "Boy Meets Boy" by David Levithan, "Ten Steps to Nanette" by Hannah Gadsby; and "All the Flowers Kneeling" by Paul Tran, all published by Penguin Random House.
In addition to authorizing the circulation of the excerpts, Penguin Random House also donated 400 copies of the six aforementioned books to be distributed during the campaign.
The printing aspect of the stunt might raise eyebrows around its environmental impact, especially coming from an agency that became B-corp certified last year. To offset the damage, Penguin Random House partnered with One Tree Planted and donated $10,000 to plant 10,000 trees for the batches of paper used for the faxes.
“At Penguin Random House, our authors and books have always existed at the forefront of the cultural conversation, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to amplify the work of these brilliant creators in an impactful new way,” said Carly Gorga, Brand Marketing Director at Penguin Random House. “By teaming up with Havas New York and NYC Pride this year, we hope more people will see—and truly understand—the power of books to spark meaningful discussion and action that will move us toward a better future.”
The Bury The Bills website remains active after the conclusion of the Pride March.