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.

Why We’re All About Purple Today

Today is Spirit Day, and that means we’re joining thousands of people, organizations, and corporations throughout America in going purple to show our support for LGBT equality and our opposition to bullying.

For us, there is no question that the fight for LGBT equality is an integral part of the broader fight for civil rights, which is why we are proud to call ourselves allies of the LGBT community. We recognize that when our communities work in tandem, we become stronger and move forward together.

Members of the Latino community, however, already know this:

  • According to a 2012 Pew Hispanic Center report, 59% of Hispanics say that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.”
  • According to a 2010 Bendixen & Amandi International poll:
    • 80% of Latinos believe that gay people often face discrimination.
    • 83% of Latinos support housing and employment nondiscrimination protections.
    • 73% of Latinos support gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
    • 75% of Latinos support school policies to prevent the harassment and bullying of students who are or perceived to be gay.
    • 55% of Latinos (and 68% of Latino Catholics) say that being gay is morally acceptable.

Those are the numbers, but just who are these Latinos? Well, many of them include members of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) staff. Today we’re taking the opportunity to feature some of them. The folks below are but a sampling of the many supportive staff members who believe wholeheartedly in LGBT equality and the mission to defeat bullying in all forms..

I’m a proud LGBT ally because my best friend and her new wife make a beautiful family. –Maria Moser (she’s in the black suit on the left), Director of Education, Midwest, NCLR

Vanessa Belsito, Senior Associate, Corporate Relations, Resource Development, NCLR

Ruben Gonzales, Deputy Vice President, Resource Development, NCLR

Meet Maya (above) and Bobby (below), two of the LGBT community’s youngest supporters. They’re also the lovely children of our Director of Education, California & Far West, Feliza Ortiz-Licon.

Sherry San Miguel, Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Naomi Sosa, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Samantha Ferm, Marketing & Outreach Manager, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

Maria Fischer Millet, Senior Event and Meeting Planner, Integrated Marketing and Events, NCLR

David Castillo (left), New Media Manager, Communications, NCLR, and his partner, James G. Holmes.

Ellie Klerlein, Associate Director, Digital Organizing, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

Octavio Espinal, Associate Director, Office of the President, NCLR

So tell us: What does Spirit Day mean to you?

When Marriage Equality & Immigration Policy Intersect

By Rubén Gonzalez, Deputy Vice President, Resource Development, NCLR

I asked my fiancé to marry me on an Alaskan cruise with my family, at sunset on one of the ship’s decks. We had already been together for seven years, but we had resolved not to get married until we could marry legally.

It was a long time coming and something that, when we started dating twelve years ago, we thought might never happen. In two weeks, Joaquin and I will be married in Washington, DC and will join the thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples who are realizing this dream of marriage equality that so many in the LGBT community continue to fight for so fiercely.

But are our marriages truly equal? Certainly, we share the same love and commitment to the people that we choose to spend the rest of our lives with, and like other married couples we will be surrounded on our wedding day by our family and friends. However, our love and commitment does not grant us the same federal rights and benefits that are guaranteed to heterosexual married couples.

As marriage for gay and lesbian couples becomes more mainstream and less of a wedge issue for politicians to exploit, immigration has, in many ways, assumed that role. And bi-national same-sex couples are caught right in the eye of the storm – affected by two hot-button issues.

Because the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits federal recognition of same-sex unions, married gay and lesbian Americans cannot legally sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States. To the Obama administration’s credit, they recently unveiled new deportation guidelines that would prioritize the deportation of criminals and would review all deportations on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a person’s family relationships. And while administration officials have said that same-sex marriages will be considered under this family relationship category, they still have not created specific guidelines for these cases.

Unfortunately, as long as DOMA remains on the books, same-sex married couples will not have an equal marriage in the eyes of the law and will therefore need special protections. If federal law doesn’t consider same-sex marriage to be legitimate, an agent reviewing a deportation case might not, either.

Recently, 69 lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice requesting that they design a working group to handle deportation cases. This working group would not only be given specific guidelines in considering LGBT family ties in each case, but would also include a member who has experience working with LGBT immigrants and their families.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) wholeheartedly supports these efforts and encourages those who believe in marriage equality to call the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and request that they follow through with these proposals. President Obama has made it a point to reiterate that the arc of history bends toward justice. Same-sex couples who run the risk of being separated cannot wait for that arc to bend; the Obama administration must bring justice to us.

Joaquin and I are fortunate that we don’t have to navigate through this dilemma. Still, we cannot turn a blind eye to the injustice facing others in the LGBT community.