“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is a short list of basic human rights. It seems equality, safety, and self-determination slipped the forefathers’ minds. But any excuse for these oversights have expired. It can’t be so easy to forget that the fight for equality extends beyond gender, sexuality, income, race, age, and religion to encompass all human beings. These 10 incredible organizations are working tirelessly to fill in the gaps where many LGBTQ people and issues have fallen, and they are some of the most inclusive, oldest, and highly acclaimed.
Check out the 10 LGBTQ organizations making a difference for the community!
1. Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Marriage, healthcare, holding office, feeling safe in the workplace, and serving openly in the military. These are just a few key ways the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) makes equality for the LGBTQ community a reality. HRC is one of the nation’s largest civil rights organizations. Since 1980, they’ve attracted 1.5 million members and supporters. One of HRC’s greatest victories is “The People’s Brief,” which played a significant role in the fight for marriage equality as the most signed amicus brief ever submitted to Supreme Court. Another is its nationwide strategy that generated 625K emails, 50K handwritten notes, and 1K lobby visits to Congress urging the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. They are renowned for its multi-channeled approach in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Think Twitter campaigns including #LoveConquersHate and #AsktheGays. And their print magazine Equality is the nation’s largest-circulation LGBTQ magazine. They’ve also created the Congressional Scorecard, Buyer’s Guide, and other tools promoting awareness. Their equal sign is notorious for promoting equality on Facebook pages, bumper stickers and LGBT promotions nationwide.
2. Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
For almost 40 years, SAGE has been fighting for a higher quality of life for LGBT older adults. With a headquarters in NY, chapters in 29 other states, and national programs accessed across the country through SAGENet, SAGE is the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative, LGBT Elder Hotline, and SAGECare are just a few of the programs and services designed to address the major concerns of isolation, poverty, and public policy facing the LGBTQ elderly. Through SAGECare, more than 16K staff members and volunteers have been trained to care specifically for LGBT elders, over 5K people have been helped and 30K meals served at SAGE Centers, and over 3.2K hours have been spent by SAGE Friendly Visitors serving homebound LGBT adults. Its goal is even loftier than its results: to make a difference in the lives of over half a million LGBT older people by 2021.
3. Lambda Legal
Lambda Legal is the largest legal organization in the US dedicated to achieving the full recognition of civil rights for LGBT and persons with HIV. Its approach is threefold: impact litigation, which focuses on high-impact cases over number of cases; public education campaigns like #OutAtWork and #Don’tEraseUs that complement high-profile cases; and policy advocacy at every level of government. Boasting an NY headquarters along with 5 offices in each region of the country, Lambda Legal became one of the first national lesbian and gay organizations to have a fully staffed southern office in 1997. Since 1973, they have won or played a major role in groundbreaking cases including Nabozny v. Podlesny (1996), Brandon v. Richardson County (2001), and Lawrence v. Texas (2003). Because they do not charge clients or receive government funding, they depend heavily on contributions—of which they have received over $20 million annually since 2012 according to the annual reports available on its website.
4. Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educators Network (GLSEN)
Did you know that 8 out of 10 LGBTQ students are harassed every year? GLSEN works to overcome this serious problem. For over 25 years, GLSEN has united parents, educators, students, faith leaders, and community members across the country to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues in K-12 schools. With a national presence strengthened by 37 chapters in various states, GLSEN has created campaigns including the Day of Silence and upcoming Ally Week, which encourages LGBTQ students and educators to lead discussions about what support they need from their allies in school. GLSEN offers resources to students, educators, and constituents for creating LGBT-Inclusive curriculum, Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, anti-bullying policies, and model legislation.
5. Immigration Equality
As America’s leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization, Immigration Equality works to create a world in which access to counsel is recognized as a fundamental right that cannot be denied on the basis of gender, income, citizenship, or HIV status. Since 1994, Immigration Equality’s award-winning LGBTQ Asylum Program has successfully won asylum for over 950 immigrants while maintaining a 99% success rate. Among its 700 current clients are LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants, asylum seekers, LGBTQ immigrants and binational couples and families separated by oceans, detainees in immigrant jail facilities, and undocumented LGBTQ people in US. Many are fleeing one of the 80 countries where it is illegal or fundamentally unsafe to be LGBT. One exceptional aspect of Immigration Equality is its interest in reform inside and outside the courtroom. Jackie Yodashkin, Public Affairs Director of Immigration Equality, said, “As an organization that provides free legal representation, our legal team has direct experience interacting with the legal system and can see exactly where there are issues that need to be fixed. That legal work fuels and informs our advocacy work.”
6. Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP)
SRLP believes that self-determination is a basic right. Its mission is to guarantee that right for all LGBTQI, with a specific focus on people of low-income and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. For 16 years, SRLP has provided legal services to people in the five boroughs of NYC and those incarcerated by NY State as part of the fight for economic, racial, and gender justice. Its efforts, which revolve around prison reform, healthcare, name change applications, and visitation rights, have not gone unnoticed: SRLP has been mentioned in Allure, Teen Vogue, and on the radio show On The Count as a powerful trans advocacy group. SRLP’s “It’s War in Here”: A Report on the Treatment of Transgender and Intersex people in New York State Men’s Prisons, which brought the systematic discrimination and criminalization of LGBT people in the US to the attention of policy-makers, attorneys, service providers, community organizations, and abolitionists, is currently in production to be re-published in the summer of 2018.
7. National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
LGBT businesses add $1.7 trillion to the US economy and create thousands of jobs. That’s according to NGLCC’s “America’s LGBT Economy” Report. Representing the interests of over 1.4 million LGBT business owners and entrepreneurs, NGLCC is the business voice of the LGBT community. As a national organization with 52 affiliate chambers, 157 corporate partnerships, 983 certified LGBT business enterprises, and a recent global division, NGLCC is the largest advocacy organization fighting for the economic advancement of LGBT people and businesses. Over a third of Fortune 500s and federal, state, and local government supply chains nationwide now use NGLCC’s LGBT Business Enterprise Certification, which was created only 15 years ago. One of NGLCC’s recent successes is its invitation to the Billion Dollar Roundtable, which celebrate corporations spending with diverse suppliers, now including LGBT suppliers.
8. Victory Institute
We need LGBT people in government to help further protect LGBT rights and fight for equality. Launched in 1993, Victory Institute is the nation’s oldest LGBT political fund. The organization goes above and beyond campaign funding. In the past 24 years, it has evolved into the only national organization committed to elevating openly LGBTQ leaders. Its scope of programs and services now includes: internships for LGBTQ students, professional development programs and fellowships for LGBTQ candidates, programs for LGBTQ elected officials and leaders, and an international program to increase political participation of LGBTI in democratic countries across the world. According to its 2016 annual report, Victory Institute not only trained 158 domestic LGBTQ leaders—29% of which plan to run for office in the next two years—and 68 international leaders but also held the largest international LGBT Leaders Conference in history.
PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. They are truly “the extended family of the LGBTQ community.” Originally an acronym for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and then Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the name PFLAG now stands on its own. The organization has been working to secure the human dignity of all people for 45 years. Headquartered in DC with over 400 chapters and 200K members and supporters across the country and in Puerto Rico, PFLAG offers peer-to-peer support, information, publications, tools, and other resources to LGBTQI, family, and allies. In 2014, 293 chapters were contacted by phone, email, and visits; 112 legislative visits were made; 12 briefs amici were filed; over 100 members participated on the PFLAG National Lobby Day; and PFLAG was mentioned over 350 times in the media. PFLAG’s recent campaign #ParentsComingOut, which focuses on the importance of family support for LGBTQ loved ones, has been tremendously successful on social media and in the press.
10. Trevor Project
For over 20 years, the Trevor Project has worked to end suicide among LGBTQ youth through life-affirming programs. Founded by the creators of the Academy Award-winning short film TREVOR, it is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people. According to its 2015 annual report, over 50K hours were served by 920 volunteers; over 54K calls, chats, and texts were answered; and over 200K LGBTQ youth were impacted through Trevor Lifeline, Chat, Text, and Trevor Space. A complement to the renowned 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people, Trevor Space is a growing space for LGBTQ youth to find confidential peer support online: in 2015, it had over 127K users with a 27.1% increase from last year alone. Recognized for its powerful social media campaigns, the Trevor Project received the Shorty Industry Award for Best Use of Video and the Shorty Award for Charity in 2011.