Metro Weekly

American Foundation for Equal Rights to close down

Farewell email cites victory on marriage equality and encourages supporters to support HRC's efforts

AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer (center) at a press conference, flanked by plaintiffs in Virginia's marriage equality case, along with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson (right).  (Credit: Diana Walker/AFER.)
AFER Executive Director Adam Umhoefer (center) at a press conference, flanked by plaintiffs in Virginia’s marriage equality case, along with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson (right). (Credit: Diana Walker/AFER.)

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) became the latest pro-LGBT organization to announce it was shutting down this week following the legalization of marriage equality nationwide. 

In an email to supporters of AFER, the group’s executive director, Adam Umhoefer, praised the progress made with respect to marriage equality while also warning that other fights await the LGBT community with respect to gaining equality in other areas, such as employment, housing or public accommodations.

“Nearly six years ago, the American Foundation for Equal Rights was created with the specific mission of arguing for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court and to, while doing so, dramatically advance the American conversation on equality. And we accomplished that…and so much more,” Umhoefer wrote in his email. “…But, even as we celebrate this amazing milestone, please remember we’re going to have to work harder than ever before to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have full federal equality — nothing more, and nothing less.”

Among the successes that Umhoefer attributes to AFER are legalizing marriage equality in California and Virginia, bringing together both liberal and conservative supporters to speak with one voice about the importance of marriage equality and how it is not a partisan issue, fighting to overturn bans on same-sex marriage in the courts, and sharing the stories of couples and families affected by the denial of marriage rights to force the American public to pick a side.

“Today, because of you — and the pioneering work of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Freedom to Marry, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, and the National Council for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) — this group of brave plaintiffs and legal teams have finished the work and won every American the right to marry who they love,” he wrote.

But Umhoefer also stressed the importance of the Equality Act, a congressional piece of legislation which would revise the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity among classes protected under both acts. As a result, anti-LGBT discrimination would be prohibited in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, lending practices, education and jury service.

“The fact is that in 31 states LGBT people have very few clear, consistent legal protections against discrimination. They are still at risk of being fired, denied a job, evicted, bullied, harassed, refused service, or denied access to credit because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he wrote.

To show their support for the Equality Act, Umhoefer encouraged supporters of AFER to donate to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which is now chaired by Chad Griffin, the co-founder and a former chair of AFER. 

“It’s going to take all of us to reach the finish line, and we hope you will continue on this journey with Chad and HRC as we turn our sights to securing comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination protections in this county and to ensuring lasting equality around the globe,” Umhoefer added. “There is much more history to be made. And we hope you will continue on this journey with us.”

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