Empowering Spirits Foundation
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2012)|
The ESF logo symbolizing a ring of unity.
|Motto||Changing Hearts & Minds|
|Headquarters||San Diego, California, United States|
President & C.E.O.
|A. Latham Staples|
The Empowering Spirits Foundation is based in San Diego, California with chapters spread throughout the nation. ESF members engage in service-oriented activities in communities typically opposed to LGBT rights.
ESF programs include neighborhood revitalization, housing builds, canned food drives, and environmental cleanup; causes which allow for both sides to work together in what ESF calls a "positive environment." The programs take place in under-served areas or those conservative in nature as these are the people ESF is attempting to influence.
History and leadership
The Empowering Spirits Foundation was established by A. Latham Staples in 2008 after the passage of Proposition 8 in California out of frustration as to how he thought LGBT rights organizations were approaching the gay rights issue.
Staples said, "The day after the [passage of Proposition 8] various gay rights organizations attacked Christians, the LDS Church and minority groups. In my mind this intolerance only amplified the hate, it didn't create change,". Staples, a long time activist, was laughed at when he suggested to one of those organizations that the LGBT community should foster dialogue with such groups instead of attacking them. Four days later ESF was established.
Empowering Spirits Foundation members engage in service-oriented activities in communities throughout the nation. These events range from small events at nursing homes and food banks, neighborhood clean-up endeavors, and neighborhood restoration projects, to participation in large citywide rallies.
Proud Hearts Reach Out
The Empowering Spirits Foundation held its first annual nationwide service-oriented event to promote LGBT rights called “Proud Hearts Reach Out” in conjunction with National Coming Out Day October 9, 2009. The nationwide event was created in response to the California Supreme Court decision to uphold Proposition 8. Roughly 5,000 volunteers attended the ESF service events held across 36 states, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, MyOutSpirit.com, the American Cancer Society, and the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society.
National Equality Rally
The Empowering Spirits Foundation, along with other LGBT organizations, co-organized the National Equality Rally which took place from April 27 through May 3, 2009 in Philadelphia, PA. The rally featured a series of cultural programs, panels, parties and outdoor events, and a tribute to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who is a proponent of gay rights.
Echoing Green, an angel investor in social entrepreneurial organizations, announced it would fund ESF for two years. ESF was the only grantee selected from the category of "Civil & Human Rights" when Staples was named a 2010 Echoing Green fellow for “enacting innovative solutions that address root causes to social problems.”
Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine
In May, 2009 the Empowering Spirits Foundation filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service to seek revocation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s tax exempt status. This complaint was filed after Mark Mutty, the Diocese’s public affairs director, announced plans for the church to gather 55,087 signatures needed for a state referendum on same-sex marriage, in an attempt to overturn Maine’s new same-sex marriage law. Mutty is quoted as calling the church’s action “one of the biggest grassroots movements in Maine history.”
Erik Stanley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, responding on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, stated in a letter to ESF that the IRS allows tax-exempt organizations to "engage in lobbying activities, including advocating a position on a public referendum, without violating their tax-exempt status so long as the activity is not a substantial activity of the organization."
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- Empowering Spirits Foundation — official website