In recent months, states across the country have passed or introduced extreme anti-LGBTQ bills. From North Carolina’s HB2 law to Mississippi’s “religious exemption” bill, LGBTQ communities, and transgender people in particular, are being targeted during this year’s legislative cycle in an effort to roll back gains in recent years for LGBTQ equality. North Carolina’s new HB2 law forbids municipalities from protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, and requires that transgender people use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. In Mississippi, a new law permits individuals and businesses to deny services to LGBTQ people if they have religious objections to doing so. A similar religious exemption bill was passed by the Georgia legislature, but was vetoed by the governor. Tennessee’s “religious exemption” bill allows therapists to refuse treatment to LGBTQ people. According to the Equality Federation, more than 200 such anti-LGBT bills have been introduced this year in state legislatures across the U.S.
Foundations and corporations can respond to this wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in a number of ways – and many are already doing so. Here are a few of the ways that funders are standing up for LGBTQ rights in the face of a new wave of backlash:
While many state legislative sessions are soon coming to a close for this year, another wave of anti-LGBTQ bills is likely in the coming year – and a likely polemical election season may stoke an even more intense backlash. In that context, leading funders and LGBTQ advocates are mindful that responding to the current anti-LGBTQ backlash requires both short-term and long-term strategic responses. In the short term, it’s crucial to provide nimble support for effective campaigns to stop anti-LGBTQ bills while also using this moment as an opportunity for raising awareness of LGBTQ issues in the wider community. Looking at the long term, funders have an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of LGBTQ organizations – particularly in the South and the Midwest – and to support deeper culture change for more inclusive communities. Long-term strategies must consider deeply entrenched issues such as issues of religion and faith, which are often the hallmark of opposition in communities where these bills are emerging.
Funders of all types and areas of focus have the potential to respond to anti-LGBTQ bias and express support for LGBTQ communities. For funders who are new to funding LGBTQ issues, a good starting point may be to review your foundation’s policies and communications as they relate to the LGBTQ community to ensure that your foundation has supportive policies for LGBTQ people and their families. This current moment, while challenging, offers an opportunity for increased dialogue in philanthropy and in the wider community about how to deepen our commitment to supporting the full diversity of our communities, including LGBTQ communities.