ACLU Announces Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project

March 4, 2021 6:45 pm

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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it would name its project working on LGBTQ and HIV issues after Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović. The Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, located inside of the ACLU Ruth Bader Ginsburg Liberty Center, will continue the ACLU’s work to make justice and equality a lived reality for LGBTQ people and all people living with HIV.

The launching of the Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project is made possible through a landmark $15 million gift to the ACLU Foundation. The gift is the largest LGBTQ rights-focused gift in the ACLU’s history and builds on decades of personal support from Stryker and Randjelović to the ACLU and other LGBTQ rights organizations.

“Jon and Slo have been pioneering supporters for our LGBTQ rights work for years. Alongside scores of funders and organizations as well as millions of activists and everyday LGBTQ people, Jon and Slo helped build the infrastructure that made marriage equality the law of the land, but they also understood that the fight for LGBTQ equality did not end there. Jon and Slo were in the U.S. Supreme Court when our client Aimee Stephens — who lived in Jon’s home state of Michigan — challenged her firing because she was a trans woman. Even after we won, and Donald Trump lost his presidential bid, Jon and Slo understood that there were great challenges ahead,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “Jon and Slo know that the battles for trans justice are more critical than ever. The project will ensure that our fight for LGBTQ justice and equality will continue in the years ahead with energy and determination, as well as the resources needed to ensure success. Their vision and understanding are what make them such incredible friends to the ACLU, the LGBTQ movement, and to every cause they support.”

Stryker is the founder and president of the Arcus Foundation, a private, global grant-making organization that supports the advancement of LGBTQ human rights and conservation of the world’s great apes. Both personally and through the Arcus Foundation, Stryker has supported not only LGBTQ causes and conservation of great apes, but has also funded a Queer Studies program at Spelman College and a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Stryker has said his passion for funding LGBTQ causes extends from his personal experience as a gay man but also his belief that we should all have basic freedoms related to our relationships and self-determination. Stryker and Randjelović were married in 2016.

“LGBTQ rights are literally life-and-death human rights issues. I’ve learned that in the United States and around the world, many people are still unaware of the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQ people. We’re talking about ordinary people who are trying to live openly but lack the freedom to do so without facing severe consequences. Some may think the days of people being thrown in jail for being LGBTQ are over in the United States, but particularly for Black and Brown transgender women, that is far from true,” said Stryker.

“We believe that viewing the fight for LGBTQ rights as part of broader fights for civil and human rights is the best protection for the LGBTQ community. We are thrilled to make this contribution to an organization that has viewed LGBTQ rights through this broader lens for over 100 years,” said Randjelović.

While what is now called the Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project was formally created in 1986, the ACLU’s advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ people stretches back to the 1930s, starting with a First Amendment case involving the play “The Children’s Hour,” which was censored because of its lesbian theme. The ACLU has appeared at the Supreme Court on LGBTQ rights cases more than any other organization, most recently as counsel for Aimee Stephens and Don Zarda in their historic victory along with Gerald Bostock. Aimee Stephens’ case was the first trans civil rights case to reach the high court. The ACLU and its state affiliates have also supported countless state and local efforts to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

“We will use Jon and Slo’s generosity to change the law and create a culture where discrimination against LGBTQ people is unfathomable. They understand that as long as LGBTQ people can be used as fodder for political attacks — such as the bills against trans youth currently moving in states around the country — that our entire community will be vulnerable to discrimination,” said James Esseks, director of the newly named Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We need the resources to fight on all fronts — in the states and at the federal level, in courts and in communities, and that’s what Jon and Slo’s generosity will allow us to do.”

For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

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