Next week comes the moment so many LGBT philanthropists have worked for: arguments before the United States Supreme Court on the question of gay marriage. In two separate cases, the Court will consider first California's Prop 8 and then the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While neither case will require the Court to rule on marriage equality as a constitutional right, these cases mark the first time the Court will consider any marriage equality claims. Both nerdy court-watchers like myself and LGBT philanthropists will be eagerly awaiting news from the arguments next Tuesday and Wednesday.
No major LGBT philanthropic foundation has worked longer to bring about this moment than the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund (see Evelyn and Walther Haas, Jr. Fund: Grants for LGBT). The family foundation has been in existence since 1953, working to make the San Francisco Bay Area the best community it could be by promoting fairness, equality, and justice. In 2001, the Fund announced its support for marriage equality. It's been a priority for the foundation since. They helped create organizations that have played central roles in the battle for marriage equality. Marriage equality has been a big topic for a lot of LGBT philanthropists. But the Haas Fund deserves to be singled-out for being the first major foundation to embrace marriage equality.
Looking through their grantee list just for 2012, it is clear that the fund has continued to be a major supporter in the fight for marriage equality (read Haas Fund senior program director of LGBT Rights, Matt Foreman's IP profile). They've been a significant contributor to Freedom to Marry, an organization leading the charge against DOMA. The fund also provided a $100,000 grant to the Center for American Progress to fund public opinion research on DOMA. Having been in the game the longest, the Haas Fund must understand that turning the tide of public opinion is the ultimate key to winning the marriage equality issue, as these grants make clear.
The Fund has also played a critical role in building and sustaining the Civil Marriage Collaborative, which brings the grantmakers together to make sure resources are being used as wisely as possible. The Collaborative and the Haas Fund have both been big promoters of the idea that national marriage equality can't happen until it succeeded in enough states to reach that critical mass. (Read Haas Fund vice president of programs, Sylvia Yee's IP profile).
Next week's arguments will give us an indication of how close we are to that critical mass that the United States Supreme Court can't ignore, though we won't get the actual answer until the Court releases its decisions later this spring. And both of these cases have easy ways for the Court to avoid the overarching marriage equality question while still striking down Prop 8 and DOMA. But however the hearings go, one thing is certain: the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund has worked hard to get the marriage equality movement to this moment.