By Joe Harris
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization endorsed marriage equality for all Americans. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) announced in a story in the Washington Blade that the organization’s national board of directors has voted unanimously to support same sex marriage.
Eric Rodriquez, Vice President of Public Policy for NCLR, said, “There was discussion for that period of time, but everyone really strongly felt that supporting what we had already put out there in terms of our statement was the right thing to do.”
The organization, founded in 1968, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. NCLR is funded by philanthropic organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation, as well as corporate benefactors, which number among them Citigroup and Walmart.
La Raza’s endorsement follows that of the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which voted last month to support marriage equality at its national meeting in Miami. Janet Murguía, the President and Chief Executive Officer of NCLR, said of La Endorsement, “NCLR has taken a strong stand on marriage equality and our Board of Directors wanted to affirm and support that decision, which I very much appreciate.
That unanimous vote recognizes that marriage equality and LGBT issues are, and need to be, part of NCLR’s core civil rights agenda.” The endorsement of NCLR—and the earlier one by the NAACP— reflects a growing movement among minority leaders to reevaluate traditional attitudes toward LGBT rights. That momentum in the Hispanic community has previously taken the form of endorsements for same sex marriage by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the Texas Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
These changes also reflect a shift in the demographic support for gay marriage, with recent polls showing that as much as 54 percent of Hispanics now support some form of legal recognition for same sex unions. In 2008, 67 percent of U.S. Hispanics voted for President Obama, something that U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) thinks is important to remember.
“Most Latinos favor broader civil rights protections and inclusion in U.S. society, and the issue of same-sex marriage is no exception,” Gutierrez told The Huffington Post. “A majority of Latino voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, as a recent NCLR study showed,” he added. And Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) says that another factor contributes to growing Latino support for gay marriage: A strong sense of family.
“We know what ‘familia’ is,” Serrano said. “When we see same sex couples in loving and committed relationships, when we see that more that 40 percent are raising children, we want them to have the same rights and protections as the opposite sex couples have. In any case, if it has an effect, it will be a positive one.”