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Civil Marriage Collaborative Awards $1.97 million to Support Marriage Equality

Amherst, MA – The Civil Marriage Collaborative, a unique effort to build and strengthen a broad and diverse grassroots constituency and a powerful public education apparatus to achieve marriage equality for same-sex couples in the United States, announces that its grant making for 2010 has reached the $1.97 million mark. In 2010, the Collaborative’s grantmaking strategy prioritizes funding organizations in key states where there is a realistic expectation of winning marriage equality by 2012. The 2010 strategic priorities also include protecting the marriage victories in Iowa and the District of Columbia, and continuing the battles for hearts and minds to counter recent losses on this issue in California, Maine, New Jersey and New York. Organizations working in nine states and the District of Columbia received funding support ranging from $70,000 to $300,000 (see 2010 grants table, below).

Founded in 2004, The Civil Marriage Collaborative supports work at the state level to help create environments that can lead to marriage equality in each state funded. The mission of the Collaborative is unique within LGBT philanthropy and our approach to strategy development and targeted grantmaking has contributed significantly to the advancements on freedom to marry we have seen in the last six years. The Collaborative has funded groups in all six jurisdictions – Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa and Vermont – that have won and held marriage to date and we continue to fund in some of these jurisdictions to help protect the rights, fairness and dignity achieved so far as well as supporting key groups in other states to keep the momentum moving forward so that an ever increasing percentage of LGBT couples will live in states where they can choose to marry.

The Collaborative ranks 10th on the list of overall LGBT funders in the country (as reported by the Funders for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Issues in its 2008 annual report on grant making among US foundations) and is the largest source of funding for state-based marriage equality efforts. The CMC was seeded by seven initiating funders including David Bohnett Foundation, Columbia Foundation, Gill Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Open Society Institute, Overbrook Foundation and an anonymous donor. Five new funders – The Atlantic Philanthropies, Calamus Foundation, Calamus Foundation-Delaware, Horizons Foundation and Kevin J. Mossier Foundation – have joined the effort in the intervening years bringing the total number of funding partners to twelve today.



To support Equality California Institute’s multi-year Let California Ring campaign for education, media work, community outreach and field activities to achieve marriage equality post-Proposition 8. In coalition with dozens of groups across the state – including a wide array of civil rights and progressive organizations – this effort to educate the people of California about the freedom to marry focuses on new message analysis and development, an amplified field campaign – particularly in communities of color and communities of faith – and a comprehensive online education strategy.


To support the efforts of All D.C. Families Education Coalition to further build public support for marriage equality in D.C. after the 2009-10 victory on marriage equality. This grant funds a public education and community outreach campaign to deepen appreciation for marriage equality, especially among the African-American and faith communities in Washington, D.C., so that this critical new victory takes firm hold and is preserved. Through a broad coalition of groups including those represented on the Coalition’s executive committee, this multi-level public education campaign incorporates grassroots organizing, ally building, traditional and online media outreach and social marketing, as well as other efforts.


To support One Iowa Education Fund’s research, public education, organizing and other grassroots efforts to advance the full acceptance of marriage equality. Having won the right to marry through the Iowa Supreme Court decision in Varnum v. Brien, One Iowa Education Fund continues these lines of work to broaden public support and understanding of marriage equality in Iowa and ensure that the freedom to marry remains secure in the state. Key strategies include public forums, house parties, message development, earned and paid media, expansion of the volunteer base, deepening of pro-marriage coalitions, and general strengthening of the One Iowa Education Fund operation.


To support Equality Maine Foundation in its work leading the Maine Marriage Roundtable, co-chaired by Equality Maine Foundation and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), in overcoming the loss of the right to marry at the ballot box in the fall of 2009. This work includes the design and launch of a new community-based organizing model that allows the coalition to build on the current broad and diverse constituency of marriage supporters in Maine, grows the already large coalition of national, state and local groups supporting this effort, and identifies and moves potential marriage equality supporters, especially in rural areas of Maine, toward supporting marriage equality.


To support the Maryland Marriage Equality Public Education program of the Equality Maryland Foundation (EMF) by funding expenses in the areas of field/outreach programs; research; collaborations (for example close collaboration with the Maryland Black Families Alliance and the Religious Coalition for Civil Marriage Equality); and other work. With special focus on faith communities and communities of color, EMF believes that it can increase public support as it identifies new opinion leaders in target communities who support marriage, highlights stories of harm so the public understands what marriage discrimination means, and engages new faith leaders – especially African Americans and Catholics – as spokespeople to advance the freedom to marry for LGBT Marylanders.


To support Garden State Equality Education Fund in its efforts to overcome the 2010 loss of efforts to win marriage equality in New Jersey. This grant supports new grassroots organizing, research, communications and other work to further educate New Jersey residents, opinion leaders and the media on the many inadequacies of the current New Jersey civil union structure and the pressing need for full marriage equality. Alongside Lambda Legal Defense Fund’s re-opening of the original state Supreme Court case that sparked the fight for marriage equality in New Jersey, Garden State Equality Education Fund works to create an ideal environment for the state Supreme Court to mandate full marriage equality once and for all.


To support the Marriage Equality Project of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation (ESPAF) in its efforts to win the freedom to marry in New York state through education, organizing, and advocacy programs aimed at deepening popular support statewide among opinion leaders, within the media, and in the general public after the 2009 loss on marriage equality in the New York State Senate. Through its Pride in Action and Marriage Ambassador programs, ESPAF works to create a broadly diverse alliance of LGBT people and allies in communities across the state, including a wide array of social justice movement leaders, government officials and other opinion leaders.


To support Basic Rights Education Fund (BREF) in its work to shift public opinion to majority support for marriage equality through a mix of an evidence-based public education campaign, further research, testing and refinement of marriage messaging, grassroots organizing and expanded faith-based and racial justice organizing. Through these efforts, BREF seeks to raise awareness of discrimination against the LGBT community; educate Oregonians on the shortcomings of domestic partnership; and broaden support for full marriage equality among large sections of the Oregon population. The work includes deep commitment to racial equality concerns, including strategic outreach to and involvement of communities of color in all efforts at all levels.


To support Marriage Equality Rhode Island Education Fund (MERIEF) in its significantly expanded work with key partners – including GLAD and MassEquality Education Fund – in joint efforts to win marriage equality in Rhode Island under the umbrella of the campaign Winning New England, Leading the Nation. Plans include efforts to expand activist membership in MERIEF and mobilize activists and volunteers to advocate for marriage equality, build statewide pro-marriage momentum and message consistency, and enhance existing coalitions including progressive coalition building and work with faith groups. This grant also bolsters the capacity of MERIEF to ensure a sound organizational framework and platform for the planned activities.


To support Equal Rights Washington Education Fund’s public education, research, grassroots organizing, coalition-building and media work across key regions of the state to better mobilize marriage equality activists, grow popular support, and continue to educate potential allies, government officials and opinion leaders. Part of these efforts focus on highlighting the limitations of Washington’s domestic partnership scheme and the ongoing need for the freedom to marry. Strategies include work within the Legal Marriage Alliance and Religious Coalition for Equality.


To support Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders’ (GLAD) work with Equality Maine Foundation in a joint design and launch of a new community-based organizing model that allows both organizations to build on the current broad and diverse constituency of marriage supporters in Maine, grow the already large coalition of national, state and local groups supporting this effort, and identify and move potential marriage equality supporters.

To support GLAD’s work with Marriage Equality Rhode Island Education Fund and MassEquality Education Fund in a joint effort to strengthen and expand movement building, enhance public education and outreach, and increase constituency support for marriage equality in Rhode Island.


To support MassEquality Education Fund’s work with Marriage Equality Rhode Island Education Fund and GLAD in a joint effort to strengthen and expand movement building, enhance public education and outreach, and increase constituency support for marriage equality in Rhode Island.

2010 TOTAL $1,970,000