A gay University of Tennessee alumnus and his husband have raised more than $300,000 for the school’s LGBT Pride Center after Republican lawmakers passed legislation defunding it.
In 2016, conservative lawmakers passed legislation that redirected the $445,882 allocated to the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion away from LGBT students and toward scholarships for minority engineering students. Since then, school officials have had to keep the center open using private funds.
Last year, U of Tennessee alumnus Chad Goldman and his husband, LGBT advocate and philanthropist Brian Pendleton, raised $9,000 for the center. Now, they’re on a mission to establish a private $3 million endowment to permanently fund the LGBT Pride Center at the university’s campus in Knoxville.
After raising more than $300,000 during their February 1 kickoff event at the Nashville home of fellow gay alum Gary Bynum, they couple is working on plans to host similar shindigs in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles.
“It’s unfortunate we are in this place because of the politics of the legislature, but this effort is not at all about politics,” Goldman told USA Today Network Tennessee. “It’s just about funding a place for LGBTQ and questioning students to go where they can find fellowship and guidance and support at a time that’s very difficult.”
Republican lawmakers initially took aim at the center after the its director penned an article encouraging the school to adopt the use of gender-neutral pronouns. There was so much backlash, the school ultimately removed the post from its website, and the bill stripping the center of its funding specifically also permanently banned the University of Tennessee from using state funds “to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns.”
In addition to being defunded, the center has also been repeatedly vandalized. In 2016, shortly after lawmakers stripped its funding, someone stole the center’s pride flag and replaced it with a sign that read, “Fags Get AIDS.”
“The chances of your education being derailed when you’re in that situation are high,” Goldman told USA Today Network Tennessee, referring to students who are still figuring out their sexual orientation in a homophobic environment, “so it’s important to me that students have a place where they can go, where they feel like they belong and they can get some good guidance.”