Increasing Religious Support for LGBT Justice Is a Primary Aim of Current Arcus Grant Cycle

December 14, 2015
Lifting the voices and expanding the reach of religious leaders who stand up for LGBT equality in the United States is the shared goal of many grant recipients in the Arcus Foundation winter 2015 portfolio.

Two previous Arcus grantees, Many Voices and Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics & Social Justice (CARSS) at Columbia University, each received additional support to continue advancing acceptance of LGBT people within Black religious communities. Many Voices, which leads focused organizing efforts in the Washington, D.C. area and North Carolina, will continue efforts to build a national network of influential Black religious leaders. At the same time, CARSS will continue to engage Black clergy and congregations in a deep exploration of the meaning and significance of gender and sexual diversity for theology and practice.

Against the backdrop of an increasingly contentious public debate over religious exemptions, the Center for American Progress (CAP) plans to use its grant to support LGBT rights and reproductive justice. Through the Reclaiming Religious Liberty as a Progressive Value Project, CAP is helping faith leaders and their allies to promote a balanced and inclusive vision of religious liberty that precludes discrimination against LGBT people. With grant support from Arcus, CAP will produce educational materials and conduct media outreach to promote an understanding of religious liberty as a value that does not cause harm to others.

Under its still-emerging Islam strategy, Arcus has made a grant to Duke University to support the work of the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC). Through a major study of sacred and legal texts, the Islamic Primary Sources: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Study seeks to map all of the mentions of homosexuality and explore the links between traditional interpretations of such texts and the negative treatment of LGBTQI people. DISC will also bring together U.S.-based and international scholars to share research and publications on issues related to Islam and sexuality.

Another grant to the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism will substantially increase the readership of Religion Dispatches and allow the online magazine to expand its coverage of issues related to religious liberty, Islam, and homosexuality, and religious and political challenges facing LGBT people in the Global South.

On the global stage, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) acts as a unified voice for basic human rights, promoting laws that oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It received funding to continue its successful efforts to represent LGBTQI concerns within international organizations, particularly the United Nations.

Another long-time grant recipient, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, received funding to support LGBTQI organizations in countries where they have limited access to funds, particularly in the global South and East. This support will help these groups seize political opportunities and conduct local advocacy campaigns promoting rights and protections through policy, legislation, and culture.

Several grants in this round target historically underfunded LGBT organizing in the U.S. South. Southerners on New Ground, which has led anti-criminalization campaigns to protect LGBTQ youth of color, will organize campaigns in several new sites, connect emerging leaders, and strengthen partnerships. Funding for the Out in the South Initiative of Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues will support efforts to improve the lives of LGBTQ community members in the South. And additional funding for the Astraea Foundation will help the organization bring new support to its LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund, which also supports grassroots advocacy campaigns focused on LGBT communities of color and working for change in the South.

The Transforming Movements Fund, housed at Borealis Philanthropy, will support the leadership and visibility of LGBTQ young people working across issues toward more powerful networks for concrete policy and social change. This will be done through direct grants and tailored capacity-building that meets advocates and their constituencies where they are at and supports how they choose to lead.

Increasing scientific knowledge of transgender and gender-nonconforming children’s development is the goal of a grant to the Social Cognitive Development Lab at the University of Washington, whose TransYouth Project is the first large-scale national study of its kind in the United States.

Grants to the Sundance Institute and The New Press aim to expand understanding of LGBT experiences and build acceptance in the broader society through, respectively, film and photography projects that reach new audiences—part of Arcus’ strategy to use various forms of media to move the larger culture toward greater rights and protections for LGBT people.

Grants were also provided to: Akahatá – Equipo de Trabajo en Sexualidades y Géneros, American Civil Liberties Union, Athlete Ally, Brown Boi Project, Catholics United Education Fund, Comité IDAHO, Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives, Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute, MECCA Institute, National Black Justice Coalition, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, New Voices Pittsburgh, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Soulforce, Stonewall Equality Limited, Transgender Law Center, Trustees of Columbia University in the City Of New York, and Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy.