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Latino Same-Sex Report Released
by Andrew Davis
2005-12-01

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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ( NGLTF ) and the National Latino/a Coalition for Justice ( NLCJ ) teamed up to announce the release of Hispanic and Latino Same-Sex Couple Households in the United States: A Report From the 2000 Census Nov. 1.

The announcement took place via a conference call that aired from Houston, Tex. Among the speakers were NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman; Jason Cianciotto, the study's author and research director of the Task Force Policy Institute; Lorenzo Herrera, an NLCJ board member; and Immigration Equality's Sergio Sarmiento.

The study helps to illuminate individuals on the 105,025 Hispanic same-sex couple households identified in the 2000 U.S. Census. Areas studies include demographics, immigration, income and parenting rates.

Finding and implications

Some of the key findings are as follows:

— Parenting: Fifty-four percent of Hispanic same-sex couples report raising at least one child under the age of 18, compared to 70 percent of Hispanic wedded opposite-sex couples and 59 percent of Hispanic cohabiting opposite-sex twosomes. Also, Hispanic male same-sex couples raise children at more than three times the rate of white non-Hispanic male gay couples ( 58 percent vs. 19 percent ) ; for females, the figures are 66 percent vs. 32 percent, respectively.

— Income: Female Hispanic same-sex couples earn over $24,000 less annually than white non-Hispanic lesbian couples and over $30,000 less than white non-Hispanic male couples. Additionally, 72 percent of white non-Hispanic same-sex couples own homes, compared to only 48 percent of Hispanic gay and lesbian couples.

— Citizenship: More than half ( 51 percent ) of the men in Hispanic gay couples stated that they are not U.S. citizens—as opposed to only 3 percent of men in white non-Hispanic same-sex couples and 8 percent of men in Hispanic inter-ethnic gay relationships. For females, the numbers are 38, 2 and 6 percent, respectively.

Military: Hispanic women in same-sex couples serve in the military at six times the rate of those who are in heterosexual married relationships ( 6 percent vs. 1 percent ) —and at six times the rate of all women across the country.

— Other: Other findings include that Hispanic same-sex couples live in the same areas of the country where most Hispanic Americans live, with the highest concentrations in California, Florida, the New York City metropolitan area and Texas. In addition, Hispanic same-sex couples primarily speak Spanish at the same rate as married opposite-sex households ( 77 percent vs. 81 percent ) . Also, Hispanic gay and lesbian couples work full-time at about the same rate as those in opposite-sex relationships ( 71 percent vs. 67 percent ) , underscoring the similarities between Hispanic couples—regardless of sexual orientation.

The policy implications vary according to the findings. According to Cianciotto, the analysis of the income data revealed that Hispanic same-sex couples may be even more affected by the inability to marry than comparable white non-Hispanic couples because of several factors—including the facts that they earn less, are less likely to own a home and are even more likely to report a disability. The report stated that access to t he marriage's '1,138 federal protections and benefits' would certainly help Hispanic couples guy homes and provide for their children.

Regarding parenting, the report cites the fact that six states currently parenting by gay men and lesbians; same-sex couples; and unmarried cohabiting couples—something the study's author finds unacceptable. In addition, the study notes that conservative political and religious leaders try to portray parenting as being risky for children, even though many professional organizations ( including the American Academy of Pediatrics ) dispute the notion. The report calls for fair parenting laws for everyone for several reasons; if parents have no legal relationship to their children, for instance, they cannot add them onto their health insurance coverage.

Policy implications regarding immigration are currently similarly grim. The report states that U.S. immigration policy largely relies on the principle of 'family unification,' which lets U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes. However, if same-sex couples are not allowed to marry ( or have spouses ) , their relationships are in limbo. Therefore, the study calls for enacting The Uniting American Families Act, which would add 'permanent partner' to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act. Allowing same-sex couples to marry would be another remedy, according to the report.

Concerning the military findings, the report implicates the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy ( which bars openly LGBT individuals from serving ) as the reason many are discharged. Despite the fact that Hispanic females comprise only 0.3 percent of all servicemembers, they make up 0.6 percent discharged under DADT.

For Herrera, the report 'is extremely important, given the realities [ the study ] documents,' he revealed during the conference call. 'For people like me, this document does not bring to light any surprises. Since my childhood, I've known what it is to be Latino [ and ] what it is to be Mexican—but feeling different in terms of whom they were directed towards. What this document does is show that our Latino and Latina sisters and brothers; our LGBT sisters and brothers; and the larger society that LGBT Latinos and Latinas live, share and contribute with both identities and our beings.' He added that the study 'highlights what we've known for our own lives—what is like to be invisible in our own homes' and noted, 'I don't ask for special rights. I don't ask for anything that my sisters and brothers do not have. I only ask for the same rights they have.'

Alicia Vega, a board member for the local organization Amigas Latinas, told Windy City Times what she thought of the study's findings. 'Initially, I was [ surprised ] but when I thought about it, I realized that it made sense. I think [ regarding the family-related findings ] that the roles of mother and child have such a high value in the Latino culture,' said Vega, who plans to have at least two children with her wife, Maria Cuevas. 'Even though I'm a lesbian, I still want to be a mother—and that's true for a lot of Latinas I know. ... Also, a lot of Latinas have tried to live the heterosexual life—and that resulted in was having children. I think that some women realized later in life that they can't live this lie, end up leaving their marriages and taking their children with them. You'll see a lot of Latinas who get together who [ each ] have children from previous relationships.' She did acknowledge that the high percentage of male couples is something she still finds surprising: 'I think it surprised me because usually the child stays with the mother. Also, seeing the obstacles that my wife and I are facing with having children, I can just imagine that it's even harder for men. If they want a biological connection with their children, it's much more complicated that with just two women.'

Vega said that she hopes that the report is far-reaching. 'I hope that it has an impact on the Latino culture as a whole, recognizing that their [ relatives ] have families and the same values they have as heterosexuals. I'm hoping that there's a mother out there with a lesbian daughter who says, 'Wow, there's another Latino family who's dealing with what I'm dealing with.''


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