Phil Anschutz, chairman of the live music giant Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), has taken no small amount of criticism since it was revealed that his private family foundation had donated to organizations with anti-LGBT agendas. But today the Elton John AIDS Foundation announced that Anschutz has donated $1 million dollars to support its LGBT Fund. According to a press release, the fund, a $10 million public-private partnership with the U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative, tackles the stigma, discrimination and violence that prevents LGBT people in Sub-Saharan Africa from accessing the health and HIV services they need.
The LGBT Fund supports both deep engagement in select countries as well as rapid response grants, which are distributed to grassroots organizations to respond to emergencies facing LGBT people across the continent. To date, the Fund has already helped nearly 23,000 people in 20 countries, most of which criminalize same-sex relations. Through these grants, 6,500 LGBT people have received an HIV test, and 100 grassroots organizations have been able to continue providing HIV treatment, human rights protection, emergency shelter, and legal services to LGBT people facing barriers to treatment and care.
“The donation by Phil to EJAF is in keeping with the special connection and consistently supportive, collaborative relationship I have developed with AEG for more than a decade. We will put his donation to work to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Elton John. “This funding will help our programs provide life-saving work for LGBT communities around the world, starting with the LGBT Fund in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
“My gift to the Elton John Foundation is intended to emphasize that we support freedom of all people to live their lives peacefully, without interference from others,” Anschutz said in a statement. “Sexuality is among the most personal of issues, and it has never been my intent to weigh in on people’s private lives. I support the rights of all people and oppose discrimination and intolerance against the LGBTQ community. I see this as a matter of basic human rights. Our Foundation supports a broad range of philanthropic causes. I regret if any money given to a charity for other purposes may have indirectly worked against these values. That was not my intention, it does not reflect my beliefs, and I am committed to making sure our internal processes are strengthened so that it does not happen again.”
According to Freedom for All Americans and Snopes.com, the Anschutz Foundation donated nearly $200,000 to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council between 2010 and 2015. The Alliance Defending Freedom has advocated for anti-sodomy laws; the Family Research Council describes LGBT “lifestyles” as “unhealthy and destructive;” the National Christian Foundation has been accused of funding anti-LGBT groups around the world. Anschutz has long maintained that he supports the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation, and one of his attorneys told Pitchfork that the executive had stopped donating to such organizations after 2015.
The release states that Anschutz’s donation “celebrates Sir Elton John’s legacy and the impact he has had bringing people together, as well as over 25 years of work by the Elton John AIDS Foundation to create a global, AIDS-free generation.”