The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will soon decide whether all 50 states must allow same-sex marriage. This impending decision is the culmination of years of work by advocates like Fran Hutchins ’13 MBA, MPPA who are fighting for equal rights for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Hutchins is the director of organizational development & training at Equality Federation, a national non-profit organization that helps state based equality organizations and local leaders in the LGBT community to build effective public policy movements. Her role is to advise on financial management, executive leadership and recruiting within each movement. She also offers training on how to use technology to improve campaigns and maximize limited resources.
Prior to working with Equality Federation, Hutchins played a key role with Mainers United for Marriage during the 2012 election. She took time off from pursuing her master’s degrees in business administration (MBA) and public policy administration (MPPA) at UMass Amherst to help the grassroots organization educate voters about the importance and benefits of full marriage equality. She helped volunteers engage with thousands of people in the most conservative parts of Maine, explaining the positive aspects of equal marriage rights. Ultimately, voters chose to pass marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
Since 2012, LGBT groups have helped get marriage equality enacted in nearly 75% of the country. Hutchins, therefore, is not too surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision to review the matter. “I could count the number of states on one hand in 2012 where we had same-sex marriage,” says Hutchins, “but doing the work at the federal level, at the state level and at the ballot box has all led up to allowing marriage in so many places.”
In the meantime, Hutchins is already working on the next battleground: eliminating discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “Folks are able to get married but [in many places] they are not protected under state law from discrimination in the workplace, in housing or in public accommodations such as healthcare,” she says.
Equality Federation is helping some of the same organizations who fought or are still fighting for marriage equality to spread the word about the effect of discrimination on LGBT populations.
Hutchins credits her time at UMass with giving her a deeper understanding of complex organizations that is vital in her current role. “I took a lot of economics and finance courses that helped me understand how complex systems work,” she recalls. “It got me to think in terms of the big picture and not just what’s in front of me. And there were a lot of opportunities in both the MBA and MPPA programs for people with different backgrounds to contribute to the learning. I had a great experience at UMass.”
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