When People Work Together, the Possibilities Are Endless

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

The 2013 Creating Change conference concluded a few days ago and the attendees are back in their communities, hopefully spreading the word about what transpired over the four-day confab.

This was my first time at the conference, and I couldn’t be happier to have represented the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). There were many great moments, but I was most struck by the enthusiastic embrace of immigration reform. If attendees didn’t receive the message that immigration reform is an LGBT issue as well , then they just weren’t listening. From the first-ever Latino Institute to the myriad sessions to the Saturday plenary, the subject of immigration reform was a hot topic that had everyone buzzing.

Union=Fuerza Latino Institute

A packed house at the first-ever Creating Change Latino Institute.

At the Latino Institute in particular, which is where my Creating Change experience started, I was especially surprised by just how many Hispanics were in attendance. In fact, there were more folks who participated than the organizers had expected! Seeing so many LGBT Latinos in one place was really a beautiful sight to behold.

“We were very pleased with the turnout of Hispanics who joined us for the first-ever Latino Institute,” said Latino GLBT History Project President, David Perez, the head organizer. “I think our presence at Creating Change was certainly felt, which enabled us to truly elevate the importance of Hispanic issues.”

The Latino Institute even made it on to CNN!

Immigration was one of the most popular topics at the institute. During the several break-out sessions on the issue, attendees had the chance to talk about what kinds of solutions our leaders should be considering as the country dives deeper into the debate.

Rea Carey

Rea Carey at Creating Change 2013. Photo: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Once the conference was in full swing, I didn’t need to look far to find folks rallying behind immigration reform. Indeed, the support has come from the highest levels in the LGBT community. I had the opportunity to chat with Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, about it. Carey was very enthusiastic and optimistic that this is the year for immigration reform. She also made it a point to tell us that the task force is solidly behind the fight. This was certainly proven at the Saturday plenary session, which featured the prize-winning undocumented journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas. He accepted an award for his leadership and also led a panel of undocumented activists. It was a spirited discussion, but what stood out the most was the fact that this conversation was being held in front of 3,000+ LGBT people. It occurred to me that Latinos truly have arrived. It was an inspiring moment and also was indicative of the collective power we have to cause change. You can watch the entire plenary below.

During the several sessions I attended, from those on school safety to marriage equality to how to do outreach to Hispanics, we were able to provide the Latino perspective for a community that has not always necessarily supported our causes. Going forward, I’m confident that our two communities will continue to work together toward the shared goal of creating change.

How I Came to Support Marriage…for Myself

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

Being at Creative Change this week put the issue of marriage equality at the forefront of my mind. Our partners at Familia es Familia hosted a session aimed at educating attendees on the Latino community’s attitudes and thoughts on LGBT issues. They’re positive attitudes, to be sure, but when you think about the top three reasons why Latinos support marriage equality and LGBT rights, they’re not so surprising. Respect, family, and opposition to discrimination are at the core of the Latino community’s values, so it makes sense that our community feels this way toward LGBT people. Like the rest of America, Hispanic views on the LGBT community have evolved toward greater and greater acceptance.

During the session, I started to reflect on the evolution of my own views, though it might not be the evolution you’d expect to hear from an out and proud gay man. Mine has been an evolution toward the acceptance of marriage as an institution I want to be a part of. Don’t get the wrong idea—I certainly recognize the marriage equality fight as one that we need to have. But the truth is that I haven’t always looked at marriage as something that suited me.

The reasons why I opposed marriage for myself are pretty juvenile when I think about them, but I can’t deny the fact that I held steadfast to them well into my twenties. They were mostly rooted in a fear of commitment, though I did my best to justify those views as anything but that.

As with so many things in life, however, my beliefs changed when I fell in love. Despite my best efforts, I was swept away during graduate school by a fellow student named Jim. This attractive, funny, and intelligent young man would eventually become my boyfriend and then my domestic partner. And, certainly to the surprise of my mother, father and even myself, I plan to one day make him my husband.

Being with Jim has helped me understand love and the power that marriage holds for those who opt for it. The federal government certainly believes in this power. One only need look at the myriad tax perks and benefits that the government confers on married couples. But not all marriages are recognized by the government. Not all people are given the opportunity to participate in this legal tradition. Not all people are recognized as equal. My relationship with Jim is not valid in the eyes of the federal government.

In a country dedicated to and founded on the principle of equality, any kind of discrimination leveled at a group of people, especially on the scale of marriage inequality, simply cannot stand. It is, without question, in nonaccordance with the ideals that are so eloquently prescribed in the Constitution.

But I have hope that change is coming. We have helped create this change and I don’t see our community giving up this fight anytime soon. In 2012, four states said no to attempts to codify discrimination into their constitutions. NCLR itself came out and stated strongly that we support marriage equality, and President Obama furthered solidified his commitment to the fight in his second inaugural speech. I firmly believe that marriage equality will be a reality. It’s only a matter of time.

But it won’t happen by itself. Achieving equality will continue to take passionate and tireless advocacy. I’m proud to work for an organization that believes in this endeavor. Every day more people and organizations join this fight, but we need even more allies in order to really be effective. So, if you believe in this cause and the overarching quest for social justice, join us and declare your support for marriage equality. We’ll both be better for it when you do.

Two Communities Finding Common Ground

By David Castillo III, New Media Manager

Union=Fuerza Latino Institute

In 2012, Latinos voted in record numbers and provided decisive victories all over the country. It’s safe to say that we have arrived, politically speaking. In recognition of this power, we have mobilized in myriad ways to make it known to other that our community is a force to be reckoned with. It seems other communities have taken note.

Consider the LGBT rights movement. Like others, the LGBT community has realized the importance and the value of having Latinos on their side in the fight for equality. Outreach has been made to find ways to work together and NCLR is proud to be joining in the fight.

One place where this outreach is evident is at the 2013 Creating Change conference in Atlanta this week. Creating Change is the premier conference on LGBT equality hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This year, for the first time ever, Creating Change is hosting a Latino Institute, dedicated to exploring the intersection of the two communities and to finding ways our communities can work together.

Judging by the standing-room only crowd, it’s clear that LGBT Latinos are also very interested in having these conversations. Topics ranging from marriage to immigration to family acceptance and the transgendered community were discussed at length today. The Latinos present understand the importance of this day-long gathering, but it’s important you understand why, too.

  • The LGBT community has had tremendous success in advocacy. Their efforts have resulted in legislative victories that are changing people’s lives for the better. Working with them and in tandem, our communities can learn from each other which can bolster our ability to be a truly positive force for change.
  • LGBT Latinos live at the intersection of two communities. They deserve the support of an organization that represents more than 300 community based organizations and should ensure that all Latinos, regardless of who they love, are protected from civil rights abuses that demean their existence.
  • Immigration reform. The LGBT rights movement has identified it as an important policy issue that affects not just gay Latinos, but all LGBT people. Presenting a united front with the LGBT community can only enhance our work to finally get immigration reform passed.

Check out Daniel Hernandez, our youngest LGBT elected official, talk about why he thinks it’s so important for the Latino and LGBT communities to work together.

So where do we go from here? That’s what we’re here to find out. At least on the immigration front, we have an idea. Not only is talk of reform a big part of the Latino Institute, but the Task Force has also made it a prominent part of the entire conference in general. This is a very positive move for the Task Force and we intend to continue the conversation with them and anyone else who wants to work together on getting this done. Will you join us to create change?