If the past few months have shown us anything, it’s that advocates for equality have the momentum on their side in every corner of the country. And with groups like One Colorado and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition working day in and day out to ensure all of our families have the dignity and protections they need, the fight to secure the freedom to marry and comprehensive immigration reform is in full swing.
Most recently, state LGBT advocacy group One Colorado has been watching the two marriage equality cases in Utah and Oklahoma that are making their way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Colorado. We’ve also traveled all across the state to hear from LGBT Coloradans and their allies. During every single visit of this statewide tour, the message was crystal clear: thousands of families across Colorado are counting on us to make certain we are victorious in our efforts.
We know there are multiple paths available to overturn our state’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, which could happen either through the courts or by a vote of the people. Our goal is to achieve the freedom to marry for all Coloradans as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure that our victory endures.
Each pathway requires different strategies. However, there is one element they all share: the need for a robust public education campaign that reaches Coloradans in their own communities. Victories in other states have proven that our families’ stories of love and commitment connect with people in a powerful way. We also know that in the Latino community, we’ve been taught to treat others the way we want to be treated, and we don’t turn our backs on family.
In many ways, Latino families are at the center of this important discussion. According to a 2012 report co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, and Center for American Progress, Latino gay and lesbian couples are more likely to be raising children than white gay and lesbian couples. For these families who are trying to take care of each other, there is no question that marriage is a Latino issue.
Importantly, recent studies and polls have shown strong Latino support for marriage equality, including a national survey in 2013 by the Public Religion Research Institute, which found that a majority – 55 percent – of Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian Americans to marry.
This growth in support for LGBT people and issues is coming not just from Latino families, but also from community leaders and national organizations like the National Council of La Raza and LULAC – both of which have come out in strong support for the freedom to marry.
There’s also no doubt that media coverage of our families and our stories has made a big difference. We know that media in English and Spanish can provide an important way to reach people, and that’s why here in Colorado, we will continue to lift up these stories and demonstrate why marriage matters to all of our families – gay and straight alike.
The freedom to marry is not the only issue that impacts Latino families. As part of our work, we must commit ourselves to fighting for every member of our community. Now is the time to push harder than ever to ensure that the millions of immigrants in our country, including an estimated 267,000 undocumented individuals who identify as LGBT, are fully integrated into our society – so that they can see their identities as a blessing and an opportunity for personal and community growth. Their experiences are a testament to the fact that immigration is an LGBT issue, and their stories must be told.
These efforts to educate the public and make the case for opportunity need to happen now. Because when the freedom to marry and comprehensive immigration reform are a reality, we need to have built as much support as possible for our families. Creating that climate across our state is critical to winning and sustaining our victories. A welcoming environment is also an important factor in helping our families integrate into their communities.
Our organizations are as committed as ever to ensuring that all families in Colorado are treated with dignity and respect. One way or another, we know that full equality is coming to Colorado; it’s not a question of “if,” only a matter of when and how.