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Growing up in a small, rural Colorado town and knowing you're gay isn't easy. I did it with the love and support of an amazing family, but their journey to acceptance wasn't without its bumps and detours. For some in my family, it took time for them to accept me, but as Latinos, we don't turn our backs on family. In the end, love prevailed.
Years later, when I was at Gill Foundation, I recounted the journey of acceptance by my very Catholic, Latino family. I had to believe that my family wasn't the only one with a gay family member. So I developed an initiative to challenge the common misconception that Latinos didn’t support LGBT people and issues.
We partnered with GLAAD and Bendixen & Amandi International to do one of the first and certainly most ambitious studies to measure Latino support for LGBT rights.
The results were inspiring:
- 80 percent of Latinos said they believed gay people often face discrimination and 83 percent of Latinos supported housing and employment non-discrimination protections.
- 74 percent of Latinos said they support marriage or similar legal recognitions for gay and lesbian couples.
- 75 percent of Latinos said they support school policies to prevent harassment and bullying of students who are or are perceived to be gay or lesbian.
Today, I'm thankful to see that Latino support for LGBT people and issues has continued to grow, not just from our families, but also from Latino community leaders and national organizations like National Council of La Raza and LULAC - both of which have come out strongly in support of marriage equality.
There's no doubt that media coverage has made a big difference in growing acceptance for LGBT people. At GLAAD, we know that media both in English and in Spanish provides a key way to reach people. By learning the stories of everyday LGBT people, prejudices are diminished. Coming out and telling friends and family about our orientation and gender identity has led to a profound cultural change.
The political act of coming out has also propelled support for comprehensive immigration reform. Dreamers and other immigrants have inspired a movement by coming out as undocumented. Their courage has inspired others to fight deportations of family, friends, and entire communities.
GLAAD is among a number of LGBT organizations that stands with the immigrant rights community, part of a broad coalition that is fighting to ensure comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship.
Immigration reform may not happen this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead in the water. The bill passed by the Senate is alive until the end of this Congressional session, at the end of 2014.
That’s why the time is now for our communities to push harder than ever to ensure that the millions of immigrants in our country, including an estimated 267,000 LGBT undocumented adults, are fully integrated into our society, so that they can see their identities as a blessing and an opportunity for personal and community growth. GLAAD is committed to being part of this effort through to the end.
Dave Montez is acting president of GLAAD. This column is part of New America Media’s series “Coming Out for Immigration Reform,” written by LGBT rights activists and sponsored by the Four Freedoms Fund.