It’s rare to see dramatic and decisive movement on a civil rights issue. And cases of private donors clearly spurring that progress are few and far between. That’s why the 2015 marriage equality decision, a historic milestone for LGBTQ rights, stands out in the annals of philanthropy. With the bulk of American politics and public opinion set against them, a cadre of wealthy individuals and foundations funded smart advocacy that helped a controversial niche issue enter the political mainstream. It’s a proud achievement for social justice philanthropy, and an ample demonstration of the power that private funders can wield.
Tim Gill and David Bohnett played a crucial role in the philanthropic lead-up to 2015’s marriage equality decision, along with Jon Stryker’s Arcus Foundation, the Haas Fund, the Open Society Foundations, and a number of other funders. With fortunes minted in the 1990s dot-com boom, Gill and Bohnett combined philanthropic advocacy with political giving to help push LGBTQ rights onto the national stage. So it isn’t too surprising to see their support behind a recent initiative to promote LGBTQ inclusion.