It should be a happy time for LGBT folks in New Hampshire, with a marriage equality victory making the springtime a little brighter. For the LGBTQ youth organization Seacoast Outright, however, things are looking bleak. The organization, which provides educational, social service and advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and questioning youth in the greater New Hampshire, southern Maine, and northern Massachusetts Seacoast region, has been under financial pressure for some time now, and has just announced its decision to close. The youth members of the group are trying to put together a volunteer group to fund it and allow it to function as a self-reliant entity, but it is unclear if their valiant effort will succeed.
This is not an isolated case. All over the country, smaller LGBT organizations are struggling for donations and survival in a tough economy. Some in the LGBT community put part of the blame on the massive amounts of money sucked into marriage battles such as that of California's Prop 8.
One could debate for hours the merits of fighting for marriage vs. other rights. My intent is not to do so here. (I refer you to the many relevant conversations here at Bilerico (try this one) and Pam's should you wish to do so.) Whatever the correct answer (if indeed there is a single correct answer), I believe the LGBT community as a whole has too much invested in the marriage struggle. I honestly don't think it is reasonable to expect we will drop it now.
I would like to propose, however, that if you are planning a marriage in one of the states where it is now legal (or even a commitment ceremony in a state where it is not), consider asking your guests for donations to a local LGBT organization in lieu of buying you things through a wedding registry. With many same-sex couples getting married after living together for years, do we really need more toasters or crock-pots? (Some of us may also have compiled our fair share of toasters in other ways. Ahem.) Consider, too, asking your caterers, florists, etc. if they will donate a certain percentage of the price of your order to the same organization. (Better yet, see if they will do so for any same-sex wedding. It could be good marketing.)
For those already married, consider making a donation to the organization on your anniversary. (If you have young kids, like I do, you'll know it's often hard to find a sitter anyway. Stay home, light some candles, and donate the cost of a dinner out.)
Will this be enough to save all our hard-working local organizations? Probably not. Might it save some? Perhaps. I think it is worth a try. It is shameful that within the same few weeks, LGBT people in New Hampshire can win marriage equality but lose a valuable resource for LGBTQ youth, the next generation of our community. Putting some of our wedding funds towards this and other local LGBT organizations seems like the right thing to do.
For information on the effort to keep Seacoast Outright operating, call 603-431-1013 or visit seacoastoutright.org.