by Tania Unzueta Carrasco
Before the Democratic National Convention began on Monday, the political, non-official demonstrations took place outside the streets of Denver, Colorado. These protests, ranging from hundreds of demonstrators, to two people standing on a corner, represented a multiplicity of opinions about the war in Iraq, abortion, access to health care, education, organ donation, and LGBTQ politics, particularly same-sex marriage.
In an effort to have some insight into the conservative, religious rhetoric aimed at the Latino community around election time, I had the opportunity to attend an event organized by the National Coalition of Catholic and Evangelical leaders. The event Viva la Familia, which took place in Spanish, occurred in order to promote the idea that immigration is not the only important matter on the table for Latinos, and that these voters should pay more attention to 'family values' and the 'defense of marriage' -- meaning marriage between a man and a woman.
Many of the arguments I am sure we have heard before: Marriage should be determined by God, not 'activist judges;' and that children grow healthier in families with a mother and a father, amongst others.
I don't want to spend too much time explaining why these arguments are falce, but I will say that my understanding is that when LGBTQ people talk about marriage, much of the struggle is around the rights that come with marriage, not what God desires ( the discussion about God and queers may have to be left for another time ) ; and that of course children who have families where both parents ( be they a man and a woman, two women, or two men ) may be less likely to be subject to poverty and neglect, and thus grow up to be healthier human beings.
But aside from these hackneyed issues, it scares me that what these well-funded organizations are doing is effectively separating issues pertaining to LGBTQ people and those relevant to the immigrant community in the eyes of the public. One man who I interviewed, Reverend Samuel Rodriguez Jr, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council, put it this way: 'At the end of the day I think that when Latinos go vote, they will have to chose what is most important to them, immigration reform or marriage.'
And you have to understand, that just like the larger religious Christian right, the Latino Christian right uses values that to the Latinos are very important, and on top of that re-enforces many stereotypes about LGBTQ people in order to further their agenda.
Example: The name of the event was 'Viva la familia' -- long live the family, and what the reverend said during his speech was that 'when we [ Latinos ] have nothing else left, when immigration is taking our families apart, what we have is our family. And we have to protect our family.' And if you think about the way that immigrant activists have also emphasized the family, it should not be hard to figure out that this is an important value for Latinos. A value that becomes even more relevant when many immigrant workers leave their family, or have only a very close knit family, when they travel to the United States to work.
The reverend continues in his speech: 'As Latinos we are not homophobic. We are not against any particular group. We believe in civil rights for everyone. What we want is to defend marriage between a man and a woman. If they want to form something else, then they should do whatever they want. But marriage is between a man and a woman.'
He is right about one thing: Latinos are not homophobic. Most of us want to work, live our lives happily, and fight for a better future for our communities. To some of us, our family includes people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allies. Some of us even realize that immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, and all human rights are connected.
I believe that as a community, Latino, LGBTQ, the combination of both, and as a society as a whole, we must emphasize that the government ( and the next president ) has to recognize the full human rights that all people have – the right to work without discrimination ( as an immigrant, queer or trans person ) , the right to self-determination ( gender, or political orientation ) , the right to live a full and happy life ( as a married same-sex couple, or as an immigrand, documented or not ) , and the right to fight for our communities, multiple as they are, since in the end, we are all family.
Tania Unzueta Carrasco is currently doing national Spanish-language coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions with Radio Bilingue and Radio Arte. More information at www.wrte.org .