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Is It Still Okay to Go to Coachella?


A donation from the festival's owner to Elton John's AIDS charity follows years of funding for anti-LGBT groups.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation announced this week they received a $1 million donation from Philip Anschutz, the owner of AEG, a sports and media conglomerate that owns and operates the world-famous Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival in southern California (the one Beyonce is headlining next month).

"We are all proud to support the essential work of Sir Elton's Foundation in the LGBT community," Anschutz said in a press release from John's foundation. "Sir Elton's artistry is unparalleled, he is a leader and a statesman in the artistic community and on the world stage, and his advocacy for the LGBT community and those living with from AIDS and HIV has had a profound influence on all of us at AEG, and countless more around the globe."

The announcent comes after multiple criticsms of Anschutz for donations to anti-LGBT groups. Reports from last year showed that Anschutz donated $190,000 to groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, National Christian Foundation, and Family Research Council. The Family Research Council has been designated an extremist hate group by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been involved in promoting "religious freedom" to justify anti-LGBT discrimination, reports the SPLC. The National Christian Foundation funds groups that are "aggressively working to chip away at the equal rights of LGBT Americans," reported The Washington Post. During the 2016 election campaign, Anschutz and his wife gave a combined $1,012,000 to Republican candidates and political action committees, reported The Fader. The AEG owner also gave $500,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC that spent $83 million to fund campaigns against Democrats in the 2016 election. Anschutz also gave $2,000 to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a rabid homophobe, in his campaign for reelection to Congress in 2006.

The Denver-based Anschutz defended his donations after sharp criticism last year; one 2017 Coachella act -- the band Show Me the Body -- donated their fees to LGBT organizations in protest.

"Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news -- it is all garbage," Anschutz's statement read. "I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation... Both The Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organizations that pursue a wide range of causes. Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives..."

While that statement is not true, it's heartening to see a step in the right direction, though it remains to be seen whether Anshutz's donations to odious organizations continues.

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