The Latino Equality Alliance ( LEA ) — an alliance of LGBT ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender ) community based groups - MALDEF and the Census Bureau held a community forum last Saturday, February 27 with numerous families in Highland Park, a largely Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, to discuss why and how the LGBT community should be counted in the 2010 Census. The first of its kind, the forum was to educate same-sex Latino couples on how to fill out the Census form to make sure that LGBT ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender ) couples participate and are counted.
"The LGBT community is denied a number of federal civil rights associated with military service, social security, immigration, health and marriage benefits. A Census of LGBT couples is a good first step in highlighting the needs of our community," stated Eddie Martinez, LEA co-chair and associate director of the Wall/Las Memorias.
An accurate Census count of the LGBT Latino community in the U.S. will help secure funding for crucial health programs and needed services for the community. Recent studies indicate that Latino LGBT communities experience a large disparity in health outcomes compared to the general population. Census demographic data helps educate legislators and the public about the specific needs of the Latino and LGBT community and prioritize funding accordingly.
Reflective of a policy change by the Obama Administration, the 2010 Census is the first national effort to acknowledge same-sex couples, providing insight into the size and racial diversity of the LGBT community.
"Same-sex couples filling out the Census can indicate their relationship to their married spouse by indicating 'husband' or 'wife.' Other same sex couples can select the 'unmarried partner' option to reflect their household status," explained Matthew E. Weinstein, LGBT community partnership specialist for the Census Bureau.
"We appreciate the Census Bureau is recognizing the LGBT community to be as diverse as the general public and that each community comes with its own needs," said Ari Gutierrez, LEA co-chair and vice president of HONOR Political Action Committee. "The Census does not ask transgender status or sexual orientation questions but Transgender individuals can select the gender with which they identify. Importantly, the Census is completely confidential and will benefit our community in the long-run," she added.
Forum speakers include, Lauren Pérez-Rangel, Western Regional Census Director for MALDEF ( Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund ) who stated, "MALDEF is deeply vested in making sure we achieve a full count of all Latinos and that includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender ( LGBT ) members of our community. We are working with the Latino Equality Alliance to reassure the Latino community that the census is confidential and extremely important. At MALDEF, we strive for all Latinos to have fair and equal treatment in society, and achieving an accurate count of the Latino LGBT community will assist us in advocating for improved policies and practices for the community."
As part of a larger civil rights effort, the Latino Equality Alliance's forum provided an opportunity for members of the Latino LGBT community to actively engage in changing incorrect perceptions and to increase support by the mainstream Latino community. The Latino Equality Alliance is funded through a grant by the Liberty Hill Foundation.
LGBT community service organizations including BIENESTAR Human Service's 11 southern California locations, have been designated Census Resource Centers where the public can access additional information about how to fill-out the Census form.
For information about the LGBT Census and resource locations visit www.ourfamiliescount.org or call 1-877-352-3676. Photographs of the February 27 event in Highland Park, CA also are available upon request.
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Established after Proposition 8, the Latino Equality Alliance includes BIENESTAR, The Wall/Las Memorias, HONOR PAC, Lambda Legal, Gamba Adisa and other Latino LGBT and ally organizations. A 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit through its fiscal sponsor: JWCH Institute, Inc. and is funded in part by the Liberty Hill Foundation.