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Monday, November 14, 2005
Anti-gay politics will backfire with Hispanics
By Deb Price / The Detroit News
In the midst of popping the question, Micki Gamez thought it only fair to warn the woman who'd won her heart that she'd be marrying into a Hispanic family that is muy grande and very close knit.
"There are no such things as hotels in my family," says Micki, who married Ann Nowaczewski in Canada last February.
True to Micki's light-hearted warning, a half-dozen relatives traveled from Texas to Ferndale to celebrate the wedding. "Our place was packed," Micki recalls.
Far from grudgingly accepting Micki's family and heritage, Ann is embracing Latino culture and acting like the Latina by marriage that she is: She's taking Spanish. She needs it to understand instructions from Micki's mom and grandmother about how to make tortillas, tamales and enchiladas. "I am not the cook," Micki says firmly.
The importance of big, extended families within the Hispanic community is helping to make Hispanic Americans gay-friendly as more of them learn a relative is gay. Micki says, "My family just has that love for me: 'You are happy. You are in love. We will have to learn with you it is OK that you are gay.'"
Adds Ann: "I am very accepted by Micki's family. They see that we want the same things as straight people."
More than 105,000 gay couples are at least half Hispanic, census data show. A study found strong similarities between those couples and married heterosexual Hispanics. For example, 54 percent of lesbian Hispanic couples and 41 percent of male ones raise children under 18, compared with 70 percent of their married counterparts.
Hispanic gay couples are much more likely than white gay couples to be parents. Eager to join those ranks, Micki and Ann are choosing a Latino sperm donor.
Precisely because Hispanic gay couples are much like other Hispanics in terms of children, education, homeownership and citizenship, they tend to be hurt more than other gays by anti-gay discrimination. (See the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's report at ngltf.org.)
If only one member of a gay couple is recognized as their children's legal parent, their kids aren't eligible for Social Security survivor benefits if the other parent dies. Similarly, U.S. immigration policy allows a citizen or legal permanent resident to sponsor a spouse for permanent status as part of "family unification," but gay couples are specifically excluded.
In one way, coupled Hispanic lesbians are unusual. They are six times more likely than married heterosexual Latinas to have served in the military. Long a pathway to a better economic life, the military boots out anyone honest about being gay.
Fortunately, gay Hispanics can increasingly count on the Hispanic community to oppose anti-gay bias. The Republican Party's efforts to woo Hispanics by advocating a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is doomed to backfire. Such major Hispanic groups as the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and the National Council of La Raza oppose that tactic.
Seventy percent of Latino voters want to protect those of us who're gay from job and housing discrimination. And a majority of Latino voters under age 40 support opening marriage to gay couples, according to polling by the Human Rights Campaign in July 2004.
In Hispanic families, like the one that includes both Micki and Ann, love opens doors.
Reach Deb Price at (202) 662-8736 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I'll tell you one thing (you might have noticed this already since I post almost every op-ed she rights)... I'm starting to like how this woman thinks!