The Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision on marriage is a defining step toward full equality and inclusion of gay people in American life. This historic victory means that gay people in every state across the country will now have the opportunity to express their love and commitment through marriage. It also means that gay couples and their families will be able to access hundreds of rights and benefits that married couples often take for granted in areas from taxation to parenting rights.
America’s embrace of marriage equality is the result of a profound shift in our culture toward acceptance, understanding, and a belief in fairness and justice for gay and lesbian people. It is also the result of an incredible amount of work over many years. As a strong supporter of the drive for marriage equality, the Haas, Jr. Fund applauds this heroic movement and its leaders for helping to make the United States a more equal nation.
We’ve Come a Long Way
We’ve come a long way. Over the last decade, national support for marriage equality has increased sharply, and gay rights have moved from a fringe issue to the center of public debate. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of states allowing gay couples to marry grew from zero to 37. This extraordinary progress didn’t just happen. Instead, it is thanks to millions of people standing up, speaking out and taking action. As important, it is due to the bold and determined work of a social movement and its leaders who kept their eyes on the prize and never wavered in the face of adversity.
In 2001, the Haas, Jr. Fund became the first foundation, gay or straight, to support the freedom to marry, investing $39 million over the last 14 years. Our grantmaking has supported a range of efforts to end discrimination and advance marriage rights and equal opportunities for gay people, including research, public education and communications efforts.
We’ve had the privilege of supporting some incredible leaders and organizations. The Haas, Jr. Fund has been a partner with Evan Wolfson and Freedom to Marry – the national campaign for marriage – from the start. With our colleague funders in the Civil Marriage Collaborative, we’ve helped fuel state-based marriage efforts. As the largest funder of pro-gay faith-based organizing, we’ve seen the amazing work of our grantees in raising the voices of gay-affirming clergy and people of faith in the struggle. Finally, we’ve been honored to back the brilliant, patient, coordinated litigation strategy of the four national gay legal groups that helped bring marriage equality coast to coast.
Not Over the Finish Line Yet
Of course, the job isn’t done. Opponents of marriage equality are already planning a new wave of measures to challenge the freedom to marry and authorize discrimination through “religious liberty” claims. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t change the fact that gay people in 28 states still lack basic nondiscrimination protections and that LGBT people – particularly people of color – are disproportionately disadvantaged in profound ways. Even as marriage equality becomes a reality in every state in the nation, the struggle for LGBT equality continues.
As we celebrate the enormous gains for gay and lesbian Americans, their families and our society, we look to our movement partners with deep gratitude and inspiration for getting us this far.
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.” – Harvey Milk