The Importance of Allies
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People for the American Way Foundation works to protect democracy and the heart of the nation.

As a granting organization, the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado is unique in that they want to be very involved so it’s more of a partnership than a grantor-grantee relationship.”

- Dusti Gurule


In the work to secure equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, we cannot stand alone; friends and allies are integral to our success. We are fortunate to have allies from many different backgrounds.

As Dusti Gurule of the Latina Initiative notes, “Organizations that work to promote economic justice or civil rights have more in common than not, so it’s important to start building bridges.”

Sharon Lettman of People for the American Way Foundation sees working on behalf of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as the core of a progressive vision for America.

Bruce DeBoskey of the Anti-Defamation League points out that if the rights of any are sacrificed, the rights of none are safe.

Philanthropist Lynde Uihlein woke to the cruelty of discrimination against gay people through the experiences of friends and came to understand “what a profound human rights issue this is.”

All four are leaders of progressive organizations that the Gill Foundation and the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado count as allies in the movement to secure equal rights for LGBT people. The work and constituents of all four vary greatly.

Some help children understand differences and grow to be an accepting and inclusive generation. For example, the Mountain States Office of the Anti-Defamation League currently works with the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado on school-based programs, including the newly-launched “No Place for Hate.” Students and teachers in middle and high schools are educated and empowered to address stereotypes and bigotry. These schools are recognized for their work to create core community values and brand their school as a place where discrimination is banned and diversity is celebrated.

As Bruce says, “We are so much stronger together than individually - and social justice for one without social justice for all is not social justice.”

Others help build alliances and educate the public to encourage recognition of LGBT relationships. Lynde helped support Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, which built a broad-based progressive coalition to educate the larger community about the discriminating impact of an anti-marriage equality amendment in the state. “When the whole progressive community ‘gets’ that this relates to all of our welfare, the chances of having an outcome we desire are so much greater,” she says.

Organizations like the Latina Initiative in Colorado which seek to increase civic participation among Latinas, understand that human rights need to be expanded for many groups. Among other programs, the initiative, which the Gay & Lesbian Fund has supported since its start, publishes guides and hosts citizenship classes to help Latinas succeed in the naturalization process. The Latina Initiative also works to register voters and informs its members on the issues to help build a broad base of educated voters engaged in American civic life.

Building alliances with other progressive groups extends into spirituality. People for the American Way Foundation has integrated LGBT topics into all its programs. For example, it has created a program around African-American clergy who are supportive of LGBT rights, offering training, sample sermons, and a “focus on fairness” tool kit. “We created an alliance of African-American clergy who were prophetic messengers,” says Sharon. In addition to tools, the program features media outreach and a fellowship program to offer support. In the coming year, People for the American Way Foundation’s African-American Ministers Leadership Council will focus on homophobia and the Black church as a central theme.

Since its start in 1997, Sharon says, the African-American clergy program has grown to include coalitions in specific states where legislative change is possible and features the participation of nearly 300 active clergy members. The Gill Foundation, she notes, “doesn’t just write a check but is very instrumental in guiding and supporting us along with other organizations, such as the National Black Justice Coalition, who are coalition allies in this body of work.”

Strides for equality in all areas of our lives would not be possible without the work of each of these individuals and groups. Working together we can continue to get stronger.