- October 27 - The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation today awarded Community Impact Fund grants totaling $500,000 to ten organizations across the nation as part of a continuing effort to build the grassroots strength of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement. The grants will be used to significantly expand each organization's volunteer base and to use those volunteers to identify at least 15,000 pro-gay voters over a two year period. Today's announcement represents the largest amount ever distributed by a national gay organization to state and local organizations.
"We know that the only way to beat the anti-gay religious and political right is, frankly, by copying what they've been doing for years - building a base of support by going door-to-door, talking to people, and identifying neighbors we know will stand with us," said Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman. "This work isn't glamorous - it's incredibly hard and takes a lot of courage - but it works. We know that the vast majority of Americans support equal rights for gay people when someone has a direct and honest conversation with them."
Foreman noted that over the last two years, 10 out of 12 of the anti-gay referenda had been defeated because local gay communities, working with the Task Force, had identified and turned out a strong base of public support through painstaking face-to-face conversations with voters. (Prior to 2001, the gay community had been losing 3 out of 4 of these fights.) Last fall, for example, this kind of work identified 74,000 pro-gay voters and provided the margin of victory in saving Miami-Dade's gay rights law from being repealed by ballot initiative.
One of the Task Force grants will go to the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's leading gay rights organization, to train volunteers across the state to educate the public about the needs of gay and lesbian families and the problems these families face because of lack of legal recognition and protections.
"This grant will help us implement ground-breaking programs to reach out to new allies in targeted communities across New York," said Alan Van Capelle, the Pride Agenda's Executive Director. "Changing the culture and the political climate in New York State on issues like equality for our families can only happen when people outside of our community begin caring about our issues as if they were their own."
Task Force Community Impact Fund grantees are: Empire State Pride Agenda (NY); Equality California; Fairness Campaign, (Louisville, KY); Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, L.A. Lesbian & Gay Center (CA); Love Makes a Family (CT); Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance; Milwaukee LGBT Community Center (WI); and SAVE Dade Foundation (FL).
While the amount being distributed is significant, the Task Force said it was under no illusion about competing with the enormous resources available to those opposed to equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
"We know that our community's resources and capacities are dwarfed by those of our opponents," said Dave Fleischer, Task Force Director of Organizing & Training. "We also know, however, that because most Americans choose basic fairness over intolerance every time, relatively modest investments in the grassroots pays huge dividends."
(For more information on the wealth of some of the organizations working against equal rights, see the Task Force Policy Institute report, "'Marriage Protection Week' Sponsors: Are They Really Interested in 'Building Strong and Healthy Marriages?'" available for pdf download at http://www.ngltf.org/library.)
The Community Impact Fund is part of a larger effort by the Task Force to build grassroots strength and skills. In the past year alone, for example, the Task Force has devoted thousands of staff and volunteer hours to assist communities across the country in defeating anti-LGBT legislation or advancing pro-LGBT measures, including work in Miami, FL; Tacoma, WA; Ypsilanti, MI; Westbrook, ME; Covington, KY; Topeka, KS; Cincinnati and Cleveland Heights, OH. Over the last year, the Task force also conducted intensive trainings for hundreds of activists in California, Oregon, New Mexico and the Ohio Valley.
For more information on Task Force Community Impact Fund grantees, please contact them directly at:
Empire State Pride Agenda: Joe Tarver at 212-627-0305
Equality California: Geoff Kors at 415-581-0005 x2
Fairness Campaign: Carol Kramer at 502-893-0788
Kentucky Fairness Alliance: Andrea Hildebran at 502-897-1973
Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas: Randall Ellis at 512-474-5475
L.A. Lesbian & Gay Center: Bonnie Osborn at 323-860-7364
Love Makes a Family: Anne Stanback at 860-674-8942
Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance: Betsy Smith at 207-761-3732
Milwaukee LGBT Community Center: Patrick Flaherty at 414-271-2656
SAVE Dade Foundation: Heddy Pena at 305-751-7283