People who know me well won’t be surprised that I’m especially curious about the “collateral” impact of same-sex marriage fights on LGBT communities, so I’d love to hear if anyone has seen actual data on the issue as I’m describing it here. A couple months back, the executive director of a local nonprofit– one that was founded by and still heavily serves the LGBT community– commented to me that his organization was likely to see about a $200,000 drop this year in charitable contributions. Most of that money, he said, was going to the Vote No campaign, which we both agreed was necessary but raised a really vital concern for me, namely this: When a community already has limited resources to care for its own, what is the impact on supportive services when capital is diverted to political defense efforts?
I can see a couple areas worth exploring. The first is charitable donations, which in a highly politicized climate often go to the most visible and widely covered causes. Second is health outcomes, where I know some research has been published previously on HIV/STI incidence in states that passed same-sex marriage bans. Recently when I did some historical research on early gay and lesbian social services (post-Stonewall through pre-AIDS), it really stood out that these charities survived on small donors and volunteers (often service consumers) until big grants arrived, but the private support would then become precarious because donors would move on to the next big problem area. With just my anecdotal observations to go on right now, it doesn’t seem all that different from what I see today.
I do think that the moment presented here is interesting in that same-sex marriage is closer to becoming a fact in Minnesota (and across the U.S.) than ever before. Yet, how much impact will that have on queer people who experience multiple stressors such as family rejection, homelessness, poor health, addiction, etc.? Forty years ago, activists were making the case that services were needed “by us and for us,” yet the resources to fully sustain them were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of need that turned up. Today– 31 years after AIDS was discovered– there are some channels for funding LGBT-affirming services, but not many. Aside from this point, I think that as queer communities continue to develop– in physical as well as online spaces– there is an inevitable conversation looming about what we most need in order to adequately take care of each other. I just hope that we don’t lose sight of these numerous health disparities in the public arguments ahead.