The recent US Supreme Court marriage ruling was a success on several fronts, and philanthropy played an important role. The sector has embraced human rights campaigns that promote LGBTQ causes. The work of foundations, charitable organizations and funders can offer lessons on how philanthropy can foster social change, especially as we approach the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September. For this special double feature we asked Sarah Tansey (IHRFG) and Lyle Matthew Kan (Funders for LGBTQ Issues) to share their thoughts on how this legislative decision relates to SDG 16: to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
Lyle Matthew Kan, director of research and communications at Funders for LGBTQ Issues:
When it comes to winning marriage equality for same sex couples in the United States, philanthropy has played an important role. Since 1989, a small group of dedicated and forward-thinking foundations invested more than $100 million in the issue. Foundations like the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and funder collaboratives, like the Civil Marriage Collaborative, showed bold leadership on this important issue, despite popular belief that it was hopeless at the outset.
As we consider what’s next, funders with a wide variety of priorities have several opportunities to make a positive impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people.
Around the world, far too many places afford no legal protections for LGBTQI people and far too many societies endorse public shaming and violence targeting LGBTQI people. Even were legal protections exist, the lived experience of LGBTQI people is still far from ideal. In the United States, LGBTQI people, in particular LGBTQI people of color, remain disproportionately poor, suffer alarming health disparities, and experience violence all too frequently.
SDG 16 – the promotion of truly peaceful and inclusive societies – invites everyone to create access to resources for LGBTQI people. When you leave LGBTQI people out, you miss an important piece of the puzzle. By taking sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) into account within development programs and policies, grantmakers can improve the lives of all people and support the inclusion of marginalized communities within civil society, including LGBTQI people.
Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ mission is to build resources for LGBTQI communities – so every LGBTQI individual feels safe, enjoys full legal protections, and lives with the same dignity, hope, and opportunities as non-LGBTQI people. In partnership with Global Philanthropy Project, we’re working on a new global resource tracking report to improve the field’s understanding of global grantmaking for SOGI issues. To join us and be counted among the many funders that support LGBTQI communities, please contact Naa Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Tansey, member engagement coordinator for the International Human Rights Funders Group:
Does June’s historic U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage matter globally? LGBTI individuals the world over continue to face discrimination and rights abuses, from Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda laws, systemic violence and prison sentences in Nigeria, and the tragic stabbings at a recent Gay Pride parade in Israel. Even in the U.S., marriage is hardly the primary concern: LGBTI populations face employment and housing discrimination, and trans* individuals – particularly women of color – are subjected to more violent hate crime than any other American minority.
The world of philanthropy has struggled to keep up. According to IHRFG and Foundation Center’s research, 5% of human rights funding goes to LGBTI populations, with much of that supporting the priorities of cisgender gay men, just one segment of the population.
Yet the court’s decision is undoubtedly a victory. It demonstrates a shift in national support for marriage equality, which has risen to 63% from 49% in 2010, according to recent polls. And it follows other recent decisions for LGBTI rights around the world, such as Malta’s groundbreaking intersex law, India’s recognition of a third gender, or the successful marriage equality referendum in Ireland, a traditionally Catholic country. As the UN finalizes the Sustainable Development Goals, this trend might offer hope for SDG 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
So how do we build on this success? As IHRFG member the Civil Marriage Collaborative says, “Together this effort has been a model of how the philanthropic sector can invest in and propel social justice.” Funders, grassroots organizations, and frontline activists worked across borders and silos and slowly shifted hearts and minds, helping Americans understand that this conversation is about love, family, and basic rights. Yes, work remains to be done. As the Ford Foundation says, “Let us use this victory as a springboard in the ongoing fight for full equality for LGBT people.”
Image for SCOTUS DOMA 53: Flickr, JoshuaMHoover. Image for Lyle Matthew Kan courtesy Funders for LGBTQ Issues.