The fight for marriage equality has come a long way since a decade ago, when Massachusetts became the first state to step around the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
But here's the thing: Just because gay and lesbian couples enjoy the right to marry in a growing number of states, this doesn't doesn't mean they don't face different forms of discrimination once they're married. Today, many married couples still report not being able to make final decisions for their dying or terminally ill spouses or negotiate employee benefits to include their same-sex partners or handle tax and estate issues as a straight couple might.
And that’s where the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Foundation comes in.
Since launching its Gay and Lesbian Rights Initiative in 2003, The Haas Foundation has donated more than $60 million to a diverse coalition of advocates, faith leaders, and legal and policy experts to advance the rights of LGBT Americans. Now, the foundation is upping its commitment to the LGBT movement to grow the number of states in which same-sex couples can marry and to ensure that once those couples are married, their rights are protected.
For the fifth time in as many years, the Haas Jr. Foundation is supporting GLAD’s work to challenge federal discrimination against legally married couples. The hope is that by closing the federal loopholes that create economic hardships for married same-sex couples, that states will follow suit.
The foundation is also deepening its commitment to GLAD’s partnership with Freedom to Marry, a national LGBT organization dedicated to advancing marriage equality, with a $230,000 grant, so that together they can coordinate a national engagement campaign to maintain momentum within the gay community.
But legal action isn’t the only way in which the Haas Jr., Foundation plans to advance support for already married couples. It also wants to promote strategic messages that show same-sex couples as loving, committed individuals who are taking care of each other to grow support in states without marriage equality. That’s why the foundation is renewing its investment in Freedom to Marry’s effort to coordinate strategic messages to the public and organizations that push marriage equality forward.
The bottom line is this: While some LGBT funders are declaring the marriage equality fight all but won and moving on, Haas is taking a different path: It's doubling down on its signature issue and staying on the case until the fight really is won.