The Walt Whitman Fund
The first principle of Unitarian Universalism affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Because Unitarian Universalism has a rich history of supporting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning persons, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is continually looking for new ways to increase the impact of our advocacy.
Frank, who wishes to remain anonymous, dreamed of helping the UUA to do more and better work in defense of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (GLBTQ) rights. In 2001, he decided to will his $1.5 million estate to a charitable remainder trust to create the Walt Whitman Fund. This Fund will provide the UUA with resources to lift up GLBTQ concerns through two important UUA programs. Part of the Fund’s income will be used to increase public awareness of Unitarian Universalist (UU) values and perspectives on social justice issues, notably issues that affect gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning persons. Another portion will help the UUA’s Beacon Press strengthen its offerings on GLBTQ issues, to be named The Walt Whitman Series.
Frank chose the Fund’s name to honor the poet who was among the first in American literature to celebrate the affection between men and develop a language for homosexuality.
Others were soon inspired by Frank’s vision. When John Kellett moved to Houston in 1972, he joined an activist group working for equality for sexual and gender minorities—the only place they could meet was First UU Church in Houston. John remained actively involved with this group and with the church over the years, and the Walt Whitman Fund spoke to his passion for GLBTQ advocacy. He has also chosen to make a significant bequest intention to support the Walt Whitman Fund.
Rick Bebermeyer and Randy Tibbits, too, were impressed when First UU Church of Houston opened its doors to GLBTQ groups when others wouldn’t. They had long been interested in human rights and civil liberties issues, and saw Unitarian Universalist advocacy positively affecting the community. They read constantly about bullying and harassment and have themselves experienced violence, slurs, and glass ceilings. Rick and Randy feel a real need for educating society on GLBTQ issues and came to identify the Walt Whitman Fund as a way to make an impact on a national level through a generous bequest gift.
Frank, John, Rick and Randy hope that their generosity will inspire and encourage others to contribute to this Fund, and enhance Unitarian Universalism’s important work and witness for the civil rights and social acceptance so long denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning persons.
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