Many are now wondering which issues LGBT organizations will use to continue to raise the funds they need to survive.
Now that we have won the right to fight and die for our country — and soon will have the same right to marry and potentially be miserable and divorce as all other Americans — we will need something else to rally around. What issue will tug at our heartstrings and get us to open our wallets and keep giving?
At the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner we heard one way is by championing a new comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill. According to the HRC blog “regardless of whether or not ENDA passes in this session of Congress, it is time for the LGBT movement to throw its weight behind a fully comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill. A bill that, at long last, would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all core civil rights categories—including housing, public accommodations, credit, education and, if ENDA fails to pass, employment. This is a visionary idea that Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) brought to Congress in 1974. Its time has come.”
As a staffer for Bella in the early ‘70s I know she submitted the bill out of a personal commitment to equality for all. She fought for civil rights; was a major leader in the fight for women’s rights; and believed in her heart that all people should be treated equally and fairly. She also had huge support from the LGBT community in her District and lived in Greenwich Village.
We have come a long way since 1974 but reality is that such a bill will have as much chance of getting passed in Congress today as it did when Bella first introduced it. But it will give the community a new target to aim for and our national organizations a hook to continue to raise funds. We can also use it to judge candidates’ support for the LGBT community. That may sound cynical and in some ways it is but I support introduction of the bill since it makes sense to fight for the whole ball of wax at this time in our history.
But we need to look at our national organizations and see where they are leading us. Chad Griffin, president of HRC, is an inspirational speaker and has talked about HRC’s Southern strategy and an international one as well. How does HRC raise the funds for all these efforts at a time when many are sitting home and thinking life is good? The ones with the most money tend to live in communities where they can assimilate. They join other families in wedded bliss; fight to get their kids into the best pre-schools; take them to tennis lessons and piano lessons; and know their jobs with major corporations are safe because their employers have a high equality index rating from HRC.
But many in the LGBT community still face discrimination. That was shown in a 2013 study conducted by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) of LGBT secondary students in the state of Maryland and reported in the Baltimore Sun. It showed “High school students in Maryland who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender constantly hear derogatory remarks and are often verbally, physically and sexually harassed and assaulted by their classmates. Fewer than half report the abuse.” This in a blue state with laws protecting the LGBT community.
We know much work needs to be done and we’ll need our national organizations for years to come even when there are laws protecting us. Changing the culture of society will take years. The issue is how to fund all the work yet to be done. Many years ago I suggested that we look at a different mechanism for funding HRC. Instead of being only donor funded. the idea was to turn it into a real membership organization using the AARP as an example. Members would be provided tangible benefits on an annual basis. If you charged anywhere from $15 to $25 annually the basic cost of running the organization would be covered with a million members.
HRC now claims to have even more members, but then anyone donating to the organization is called a member. Benefits could include a real magazine (raising additional ad revenue), travel packages, movie discounts, various insurance packages and other benefits including discounts in various stores, even large companies like Amazon. The cost of membership being small compared to the savings you would get on products you purchase anyway.
However it’s done the need to raise large sums of money will continue as will the need to fight for and then protect the rights we win.