Standing Up for the
Right to Love
“Back then, gay rights was a very controversial issue,” Anne S. Wynne explains, “so it was a big deal that Austin Community Foundation supported the Atticus Circle.”
In 2004, after 11 states voted to add a ban on gay marriage to their state constitutions, attorney Anne S. Wynne counted among her wide circle same-sex families who were denied the same rights as her family. As a lawyer used to successfully resolving disputes, she felt powerless. She decided to join a nonprofit where straight people like her could stand up as allies of LGBT people in the struggle for the right to be married and have a family.
But there wasn’t an organization like that.
So, Wynne created Atticus Circle, named after Atticus Finch, the attorney and moral center of the famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Circle was created as a national organization focused on education, policy development and legal advocacy to achieve equality for all parents and partners regardless of sexual orientation.
Wynne had volunteered and served on nonprofit boards, but she’d never started a nonprofit. She knew it was a complicated process. Thankfully, a friend referred her to Austin Community Foundation, which offered fiscal sponsorship to help fledgling organizations like hers.
Being in relationship with the Foundation meant instant credibility and immediate access to resources. “No one knew what ‘Atticus Circle’ was,” Wynne recalls, “but Austin Community Foundation meant grade-A quality.” Atticus Circle received a grant from the Foundation, along with bookkeeping services, grantwriting assistance, and help locating other foundation sources.
“I’ve always been so grateful to Austin Community Foundation for its support,” Wynne says. “Maybe I would have figured all the organizational stuff out on my own eventually. But maybe I would have found it all too daunting.”
In the 2005 battle over Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, Atticus Circle emerged as a strong ally to the LGBT community and the go-to place for straight people to lend their support. “LGBT people can’t always turn to their family for support or help,” says Wynne. “That’s why the work we’ve done as straight allies at Atticus Circle has been so important.”
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Yet, the work of straight allies for gay families is not over. “Today, the rights my husband and I, as well as our kids, take for granted are still in great jeopardy if a family has two moms or two dads. It is time for Atticus Circle to get back in the game,” says Wynne, who now serves on the Foundation’s Board of Governors.