Latinos and the Fight for Gay Rights

NY State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. has always taken a strong stance in opposition to gay rights. In 1994, he complained that the Gay Games, being hosted in New York, would lead to an increase in AIDS and homosexuality among young people. In 2003 he sued to stop the expansion of the Harvey Milk School, which provides a safe haven for persecuted gay teens. Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, has also always been against gay marriage, going so far as to declare that he would forfeit his (incredibly important) seat in the Democratic Caucus of NY State if they pushed for the right for same-sex couples to marry. Do most Latinos share his viewpoint?

While many Americans are still feeling euphoric after last week's historic election, members of the gay and lesbian community and their supporters are gearing up for a fight. A slim majority of California's population managed to pass Proposition 8 on election Day, a bill which defines marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman and effectively reverses the previous legalization of same-sex marriages in the state.

53% of Latinos in California voted yes on Prop 8. But how much impact did socially conservative Latinos really have in passing this legislation? As it turns out, a whole lot. Given that almost 20% of California's registered voting population is Latino, Proposition 8, passed by an incredibly narrow margin (52% yes, 48% no), was greatly affected by the way Latinos voted.

Ironically, 74% of Latino voters in California also gave their vote to Barack Obama, who is clearly representative of a more liberal political belief. Despite the fact equal rights for gays is considered by many to be the next frontier in the fight for civil rights, (a fight that includes Latinos), this didn't seem to compel Latinos to sympathize with the No on 8 supporters. How do we account for this contradiction?

Yes on 8 campaigners focused on the importance of family, a key to talking to the Latino community, warning that if gay marriage were passed, it may be taught in schools. But perhaps even more significant than the emphasis on family is many Latinos deeply rooted religious beliefs. 84% of weekly churchgoers voted yes to Proposition 8.

Tell us: what do you think about the passing of Proposition 8? Do you think the Latino community is homophobic? Do you believe that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry?

—Karina Arrue