The United States is home to at least nine million adults who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It’s time to make sure that they and their families have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, including the right to marry the person they love.
Why This Work is Important
The majority of the U.S. population lives in states where gay and lesbian people are not allowed to marry. And for gay couples who have been lucky enough to find love and marry in a state that has embraced marriage equality, federal law denies them over 1,000 rights and responsibilities they would have if they were straight. Add to this the lack of nondiscrimination protections that the majority of gay people still lack at work and in school, the picture is clear: In the 21st century, the United States still treats gay people unfairly. This discrimination not only hurts gay people and their families, it hurts the economy and our society.
Where There's Progress
The changes in the landscape for gay and lesbian equality over the last decade are both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Support for marriage equality nationally has increased sharply. More than a dozen states have moved to extend to gay couples all or most of the protections associated with marriage under state law. Gay rights have moved from a fringe issue to the very center of public debate. At the same time, the foes of equality still command enormous influence and power. Thirty-one states now have anti-marriage constitutional amendments on the books, and gay people in 29 states still lack basic safeguards from discrimination, including protections from being fired simply for being gay. Looming Supreme Court decisions could accelerate progress or move the goal posts back for many years.
What We're Doing
The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund is a leading supporter of gay and lesbian equality. In 2001, the Haas, Jr. Fund became the first foundation, gay or straight, to support the freedom to marry. And today, we’re focusing our efforts to support collaborations and organizations that are working to open hearts and minds on the issues of equality for gay people. Since the launch of the Gay & Lesbian program, the Haas, Jr. Fund has made grants totaling more than $60 million in this area.
How We'll Get There
What happens next in the struggle for fairness and equality for gay and lesbian people in the United States is uncertain. To try and build on recent progress, the Haas, Jr. Fund is focusing our investments in informational and educational efforts that open hearts and minds about support for gay families and their needs. Our primary goal: supporting efforts that keep the nation moving toward a “tipping point” on marriage equality.
Over the next few years, our work will focus on the following activities:
- Advancing understanding of the importance of marriage. We will continue our investments in non-lobbying educational activities to create a greater understanding of the importance of marriage so that our grantees and others achieve marriage equality or “all-but-marriage” protections for same sex couples in five more states. We will work with the Civil Marriage Collaborative, Freedom to Marry and other partners to bring more states into the marriage equality column and to build support for the freedom to marry in California through the Breakthrough Conversations Project. We also will continue to support core faith grantees, like the Institute of Welcoming Resources, to involve more people of faith and faith communities in the struggle. And, we will continue to support lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of restrictions on the freedom to marry, such as as the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” and state-based anti-marriage provisions.
- Securing basic nondiscrimination protections at the state level as a way to open the door to equal marriage rights. We will help put more states on the road to marriage equality by supporting non-lobbying educational activities that create a greater understanding of the harms caused to gay people by discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations. This work will enable our grantees and others to secure basic civil rights protections in the 29 states that have no such safeguards for gay and lesbian people, based on the idea that progress on these issues is a necessary prerequisite to moving forward on marriage. Our partners in this work include the State Equality Fund, the Equality Federation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and our faith grantees. We also will support projects to build partnerships of trust between gay and immigrant communities and efforts by the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender Law Center to combat rampant discrimination against transgender people.
- Supporting research and planning to help identify solutions for advancing gay and lesbian equality. We will invest in research and planning activities that support the goals of the movement for equality. Among the research and planning questions we are focused on: how to protect more gay people from discrimination through federal administrative action; how to better educate the public about the harms caused by anti-gay discrimination; and how to increase the number of gay people giving to the movement for equality.
- Strengthening the leadership and communications capabilities of the movement for gay and lesbian equality. We will set out to amplify the impact of the movement by providing leadership development support to key grantees through the Fund’s Leadership Program, and by forging new partnerships among funders and movement leaders on urgent communications priorities. We also will continue our support for the 21st Century Fellows Program’s work to increase the number of people of color leaders in the gay movement.