In 1999, the board of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund decided that it needed to do more to support the gay marriage and rights movement, and it has been at the forefront of the movement ever since, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
At the time, there were no states with marriage equality or civil unions; now thirteen states respect marriage equality and a handful of others are on the verge of providing marriage rights to gays and lesbians. While the board of the generally low-profile foundation understood that its support of the issue could be contentious, it chose to allocate millions of dollars to a range of organizations fighting for equality and opportunity for gays and lesbians. "If we pause for a moment and reflect on where we are, the fund's roots and mission are very much the same," said the fund's president, Ira Hirschfield. "Our mission is fairness, equality, and opportunity. You see that expressed in everything we do."
While many of the fund's grants provide support for progressive social causes, the fund has also helped transform the Bay Area with its support of national parks in the region, including the restoration of Crissy Field in the Presidio and the creation there of twenty-four miles of trails, six scenic overlooks, and the opening of San Francisco's only campground, and the creation of eight neighborhood centers in the city that provide afterschool programs and education to some eleven thousand children and families a year.
"Just as gay and lesbian rights work is about closing an opportunity gap, so is our support for reforms in San Francisco public schools," said Sylvia Lee, the fund's vice president of programs. "This means keeping an eye not on the usual K-12 needs but on preschool to twelfth grade needs, so that kids from all neighborhoods have equal chances."