GeoCities Founder Funds New ACLU Fellowship

June 14, 2000 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — The David Bohnett Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today announced the creation of the Bohnett Fellowship at the ACLU of Southern California, a staff attorney position that will focus on gay and lesbian civil rights litigation.

The Bohnett Foundation, endowed with $32 million in 1999 by Internet entrepreneur and GeoCities founder David Bohnett, is guided by Bohnett’s founding vision of investing in social change.

Attorney Martha Matthews, Esq., most recently of the National Youth Law Center, has been chosen to fill the position.

“When David and I met and talked I knew immediately that he and the ACLU share a common vision,” said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “David deeply believes in the possibility of creating a better, more humane world, a world where all loving families are celebrated, where individuals can love one another freely and fully, and where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their relationships are accorded the same respect and legal rights that other people and their relationships enjoy.”

“That’s a vision the ACLU has long been determined to make a reality, and, with the generous support of the Bohnett Foundation, we’ll be well equipped to continue that work.”

The Foundation focuses its resources on:

  • Promoting a better understanding of lesbians and gay men through positive portrayals in the media;
  • Encouraging gun control;
  • Advancing the study of animal language research and supporting the humane treatment of animals, both as companions to humans and in their natural habitats;
  • Supporting community-based social services for gays and lesbians;
  • Developing mass transit and supporting alternatives to fossil fuel-based transportation; and
  • Fostering voter registration activities.

“I am personally committed to doing whatever it takes to realize the dream of freedom, respect, and equality for gay and lesbian people and our families,” said Bohnett. “The Bohnett Fellow will arrive at a critical juncture in California’s history — as California’s gay and lesbian couples and families struggle for equality and basic rights.”

The ACLU of Southern California’s commitment to lesbian and gay equality dates to 1966, when the organization stood up for the rights of adults to engage in consensual sex. Since that time, the ACLU of Southern California has been a leader in fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, challenging the military’s discriminatory policy, fighting bias in the provision of medical care, challenging anti-gay ordinances in local communities, and working to stop discrimination in public groups such as the Boy Scouts.

“I believe in the power of community and this fellowship will occupy a key position in two overlapping communities: the community of civil rights activists in Southern California, and Southern California’s gay and lesbian community,” said Bohnett. “Like others who lead these two dynamic groups, Fellow Martha Matthews has the potential to change the way we live, to help bring about a better world.”

The Bohnett Fellow at the ACLU of Southern California is the only dedicated position funded thus far by the David Bohnett Foundation.

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