August 28, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
Maryland groups launch campaign to promote same-sex marriage, Dream Act

A coalition of LGBT and Latino advocacy organizations on Tuesday formally unveiled a new campaign designed to garner additional support for Maryland’s same-sex marriage law and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Through the Familia es Familia Maryland initiative, CASA de Maryland and the Latino GLBT History Project will continue to work with LGBT Latinos and their families to publicly talk about nuptials for gays and lesbians ahead of the November referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law. Equality Maryland will seek undocumented LGBT immigrants to discuss the state’s Dream Act, which is also on the ballot as Question 4, with gay and lesbian Marylanders.

“For all those who work on achieving equality for LGBT Marylanders, it is imperative that we work for all LGBT Marylanders, including those who are undocumented,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, during a press conference at CASA de Maryland’s offices in Hyattsville. “We must speak up for what is right and what is fair.”

Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro referenced her gay younger brother Pedro, who came out to her and her sister 17 years ago.

“I am here for my brother Pedro… and for all the brothers and sisters, the daughters, the sons, the cousins, the uncles, the aunts, everybody who we call family. I am here to urge our Latino community to never forget that,” she said. “We have an opportunity to stand up and give a gift — the gift of dignity and pride and respect and civility to our loved ones. So I am here, very proud to support marriage equality, very proud to stand up for Question 6.”

Gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) shared a similar message as he stood alongside Navarro, lesbian state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and other advocates.

“This November, we have a big opportunity as voters in the state of Maryland to truly embrace the future of our state, to understand where we are going, to make sure that every family has a chance to have equality under the law and that every young person who we’re educating has a chance to realize their dreams,” he said. “We have an opportunity to embrace a future that means respect and dignity for all families. We have an opportunity to embrace a future that says every person has a responsibility and opportunity to get an education.”

A Gonzales Research and Marketing poll in January found that 48 percent of Marylanders support the state’s Dream Act, while a Hart Research Associates survey last month shows that 54 percent of Marylanders would vote for the same-sex marriage law in November. An Arcus Foundation-funded survey that the National Council of La Raza and Social Science Research Solutions commissioned in April indicates that 54 percent of Latinos support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Ivette Roman came to the United States from Perú with her brother when she was 10. The Silver Spring resident said she planned to go to college after graduating from Northwood High School last year, but could not afford it because her immigration status prevented her from receiving financial aid. Roman, 20, also noted that her mother did not speak to her for months after she came out to her as a lesbian.

“She asked me to forgive her,” she said, referring to how her mother eventually came to accept her sexual orientation. “From that day on, she was going to support me in all the decisions I made, no matter what they were. That’s why I’m here today, trying to change and fight for my future and many other undocumented LGBT students to have the same rights as any other Marylander. And I am here to encourage the LGBT community to stand with me as i pursue my dream.”

George Boe Ramirez and German Roa of Rockville met in New York City 17 years ago. They told the Blade before the press conference that they would like to get married in Maryland once same-sex couples can legally tie the knot in the state.

“It’s our home,” said Ramirez. “I’d like the opportunity to invite my brother and sister from New York to come down and share it with us.”

He further described the Dream Act as the “natural next step” towards equality.

“We want the Latinos in our community to get the same education everyone else can and become productive parts of society,” said Ramirez.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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