Last week President Barack Obama announced his endorsement of gay marriage, a move that many wondered whether it would put his campaign for re-election bid as President in jeopardy. An interesting theory behind Obama’s outcome regarding his endorsement was whether or not he would retain support from the Latino Community within the United States due to the rising number of the Latino population. It has been estimated that the Latino community will be the most populated community with the U.S in the years to come. As of now, it is estimated that 16% of the population is Latino which means that a deal of the votes from battleground states comes from the community itself.
The President of Café Con Leche Republicans: an organization of Republicans who believe America and the GOP need to be more open and welcoming to immigrants because there is a missed opportunity of gaining votes from “conservative or moderate voters who are immigrants or members of groups with a high percentage of immigrants” has come out and expressed his views on Obama’s endorsement. Although a statement has been made, the group itself does not take a position on gay marriage.
According to Café Con Leche Republicans President Bob Quasius Sr. the President’s endorsement will distance him from the Latino Community because “sixty percent of Latinos are center-right…and more conservative Latinos, especially evangelical Christians, are strongly opposed to gay marriage. A majority of Latinos voted against gay marriage in California. Among Latinos who support gay marriage, many will view Obama’s recent comments as election time rhetoric.”
However, most will disagree with Quasius and while the timing of his endorsement may be questioned Obama’s support on gay marriage represents what a great deal of Latinos want: the promise of equal and Civil rights like everyone else. Illinois Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez is doubtful the President’s support will harm him stating, “Most Latinos favor broader civil rights projections and inclusion in U.S society and the issue of same-sex marriage is no exception,” Representative Gutierrez also goes on to add that, “A majority of Latino voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage as a recent NCLR study showed.”
The NCLR or the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights advocacy group in the country, released a press statement early in May and provided a report which was co-released by NCLR and Social Science Research Solutions (funded by the Arcus Foundation) claiming there were more supporters for gay marriage amongst Latinos. The report which contains information collected in April discovered that 54% of Latinos supported gay marriage which is higher than the national average. Along with supporting gay marriage, Latinos also supported ending discriminatory policies in employment and housing.
President and CEO of NCLR, Janet Murguía also commented on the President’s decision in the statement as being about “doing the right thing and being on the right side of history,” going to say how the President’s decision ensures, “fairness and equality while protecting people from discrimination.”
Director of Civic Engagement at NCLR, Clarissa Martinez believes that President Obama’s endorsement wouldn’t shun Latino voters but will actually attract more voters within and outside the community because, “the endorsement of same-sex marriage is historic and will resonate with the 54 percent of Latinos who support marriage equality…while marriage equality has not been a top voting issue or determining factor for Latinos overall, this endorsement may be one factor voters in favor take into account.”
Communications Manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Pedro Julio Serrano believes the reason behind why Latinos would support gay marriage because there is a strong sense of family within the community. According to Serrano, Latinos “know what ‘familia‘ is and when we see same-sex couples in loving and committed relationships, when we see that more that 40 percent are raising children, we want them to have the same rights and protections as the opposite-sex couples have. In any case, if it has an effect, it will be a positive one.”
In fact, the President’s endorsement has attracted another set of eyes within the Latino community since it has reignited immigration activists’ stance on pushing for immigration reform in the country. A member of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Juan Rodriguez states how the gay and immigrant rights movement share a similar goal in attaining equality in America and because of this are “very aligned and becoming more so every year.”
Rodriguez’s claim is backed by Andres Duque, a Latino LGBT rights activist and blogger, who finds that “for a large segment of the Latino community, immigration issues will probably have a bigger impact on the election than Obama’s support for marriage equality,” Duque makes a point when he states, “there is a lot of discontent out there about the Obama administration’s handling of the issue, particularly with the DREAM Act, and what keeps saving him is that the Romney campaign has struggled to frame the issue and aligned himself with some of the most anti-immigrant voices in his party,” giving the impression if Obama does lose support among Latinos to his opponent it is not because of his stance on marriage but the lack of attention on the country’s immigration reform.
The idea that Latinos would turn away from President Obama because he took a stance on gay marriage by supporting it, appears to be based upon outdated stereotypes regarding the community itself. While most Latinos practice Christianity, Catholicism, or any associated religion that may publicly condemn the gay community and its desire to marry in the end it is not about the religion itself or those who preach it but the people and peoples themselves. Latinos in America has and to this day continue to fight for their rights as Americans, while some may be against gay marriage, the numbers for it must be far greater since Latinos know what it’s like to fight for civil rights.