Board members of the country’s largest Latino civil rights organization earlier this month unanimously passed a resolution in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Eric Rodriguez, vice president of public policy for the National Council of La Raza, confirmed to the Blade that the vote took place on June 9 during a previously scheduled board meeting. NCLR did not provide a copy of the resolution, but Rodriguez stressed that there was little opposition to it.
“There was discussion for that period of time, but everyone really strongly that supporting what we had already put out there in terms of our statement was the right thing to do,” he said.
Former NCLR Board Chair Danny Ortega, a Phoenix lawyer whose term ended after the vote, provided broad details of the conversations that he said took place among the 25 board members before the vote.
“We had a discussion about this and clearly some people had more questions than others, but at the end of the discussion it was unanimous,” he said.
The resolution passed less than a month after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons’ Board of Directors endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.
President Barack Obama on May 9 publicly backed nuptials for gays and lesbians during a White House interview with ABC News. NCLR President Janet Murguía applauded him for his “historic remarks expressing support for marriage equality” after the network broadcast them.
“The board in essence validated that and said we fully support Janet’s position,” said Rodriguez. “Consistent with that belief they expressed for themselves the belief that marriage equality is consistent with the mission—the civil rights mission—of our organization.”
Murguía also applauded the resolution.
“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,” she told the Blade. “ That unanimous vote recognizes that marriage equality and LGBT issues are, and need to be, part of NCLR’s core civil rights agenda.”
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund President Thomas A. Saenz has backed same-sex marriage. His organization has not only represented people with HIV in discrimination cases, but filed amicus briefs in support of lawsuits that challenge California’s Proposition 8 and other states’ prohibitions on nuptials for gays and lesbians.
The Texas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens earlier this month also passed a same-sex marriage resolution during their annual convention. LULAC National President Margaret Moran joined Murguía, Saenz and other civil rights leaders who applauded Obama’s public support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.
In NCLR’s case, Ortega stressed to the Blade that the resolution is consistent with what he describes as the organization’s ongoing mission to fight discrimination.
“We thought it was not only the right thing to do, but consistent with our values as an organization,” he added.
The unanimous resolution also reflects growing support of same-sex marriage among Latinos.
An Arcus Foundation-funded survey that NCLR and Social Science Research Solutions released in April shows that 54 percent of Latinos support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they back civil unions for gays and lesbians. The same poll found that 78 percent of Latinos support the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” while 83 percent of respondents support LGBT-specific employment protections.
“There’s just all this momentum,” said D.C.-based NCLR board member Catherine Pino as she further discussed the same-sex marriage resolution. “For NCLR to do something like this is huge. This is really, really important for our community. The board, the organization realizes that there are many, many Latino LGBT people who are part of our community.”
In spite of this growing support for same-sex marriage, the survey noted that the majority of Latinos who identify themselves as religious remain opposed to nuptials for gays and lesbians. It found that only 43 percent of those who said they are Protestant back marriage rights for same-sex couples. New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., who is also a Pentecostal minister, remains among the most prominent Latino opponents of nuptials for gays and lesbians.
Ortega said he expects some Latinos will criticize the resolution, but Pino stressed that the majority of people to whom she has spoken about it are supportive.
“Our community is really evolving,” she said. “We’re coming to a place where we’ve realized that marriage equality is basically a civil rights issue. It doesn’t mean that Latinos want to get married in any of the churches. It’s about equality. And I think that a lot of our Latino brothers and sisters realize that and don’t think that we should be denied that opportunity.”
NCLR plans to formally announce the marriage resolution next month during its annual convention in Las Vegas.