Come Out and Take a Stand for Equality

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It was around 10:30 pm, the night of November 4th, 2008. My roommate and I were anxiously watching the results of arguably the most important election of our lifetime. After 8 miserable years under Republican President George W. Bush, were Americans really on the verge of electing, for the first-time ever, an African-American to the highest office in the land? The tension and excitement was a bit overwhelming. I was glued to MSNBC, watching how state after state were turning a dark shade of ‘blue’ and swinging towards the liberal Democratic Presidential-candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. As the minutes ticked by and this monumental Presidential victory was within reach, there was also another ballot initiative I was watching -- a proposition that would enshrine discrimination into the California constitution. A proposition that would eliminate a Civil Right the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community including me. And although the excitement of electing Senator Obama to the Presidency was rushing through my veins, my happiness was a bit watered-down, as it appeared more and more likely this Proposition was on the brink of passage.

Proposition 8

By Wednesday morning, November 5th 2008, Proposition 8 had officially passed in California by a margin of 52.24% to 47.76%. Proposition 8 amended the state constitution and eliminated the right of marriage for same-sex couples by stating only marriages between one man and one woman would be recognized in California. The pain of that electoral defeat to the LGBT equality movement was increased when watching the news broadcasts of same-sex couples being turned down for marriage licenses, from county to county, city to city. Loving, committed couples were being denied the right to have their marriages recognized as valid by the state, and were sent off into an unknown future with tears streaming down their faces, clutching on to each others hand’s. We were downgraded to a second-class status as human beings, and at that moment the importance of being more involved in the community was very much apparent. I made a pledge to add myself to the chorus of voices calling for full equal rights for not just the LGBT community but also all marginalized communities whom are under the constant threat of harassment and degradation.

Unbeknownst to me, a group, which would advocate the need for equality and social justice, was about to take shape. A group that would form alliances with many different organizations from varying parts of society, from religious to racial, and advocate the Civil Rights/Equality movement for all marginalized communities. Enter the Latino Equality Alliance (“LEA”).

 

Latino Equality Alliance

LEA was established in January 2009 as a response to the majority of the Latino community in California having voted ‘yes’ on Proposition 8. One of the biggest criticisms the “No on 8” side faced in the aftermath of the campaign was having an virtual absence of a discussion within the communities of color. The campaign did not use the correlation between the Civil Rights movement and Marriage Equality movement as it could have within the Latino community, where a struggle for equal access to civil rights has been a driving force for over 40 years. Since then, LEA has set its mission to make it known that we LGBT’s are a very real part of the Latino community. We are your sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, fathers and mothers… and our voices are just as important as our heterosexual friends and family. ¡Somos familia!  We are family!

LEA and Me

As my desire to be more involved within the communities I represent (Latino and LGBT) grew, I came across the Latino Equality Alliance in June 2010. After reading the mission statement and doing some research into the group and their activities I was thoroughly impressed and wanted to take part in whatever way I could. Standing on the sidelines and watching history take place was no longer an acceptable position to take, and activism for our right to be treated equally with dignity, respect, and fairness was now the only valid option on the table.

 

The first event I was able to take part in was LEA’s “Community Prayer for Social Justice,” held on August 4th, 2010 at Placita Olvera, downtown Los Angeles. The rally was timed to coincide with the announcement of federal Judge Vaughn Walker’s verdict, which overturned Proposition 8, ruling the amendment passed by voters was unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights. The event was significant in more ways than one. Considering Prop 8 was passed by a majority of Latinos, having our rally at Placita Olvera (considered the Latin birthplace of Los Angeles) was, in itself, a profound statement to our Latino community. The rally also brought together speakers from many backgrounds, from the African-American and Asian LGBT movements, to leaders of the faith community. It was truly a remarkable experience witnessing everyone rise, with one voice, in support of marriage equality and social justice for all marginalized communities.   

“Faith, Latinos, and LGBT Community Discussion” was another profound event held by LEA and The Wall Las Memorias which took place in the heavily Latino city of South Gate, on September 9th, 2010. The event featured a panel discussion, which included ministers, a former priest, as well as a mother of a Lesbian daughter, and a Gay son of a father who was a pastor. Bringing together the LGBT and religious communities is, in my opinion, a very dynamic and important step in our quest for acceptance and equality within all of our communities. Unfortunately, during the Prop 8 campaigning in 2008, a hurtful and dangerous separation amongst the LGBT and religious communities had taken form, so the need for dialogue and the extension of an olive branch to one another is an important step in order to bridge the divide and cap the differences between us all. Luckily, I was able to share this experience with my mother whom is very religious at heart, and believes we are all God’s children, and equality for the LGBT community is a must.

The Work Continues…

Even though Prop 8 has been declared unconstitutional, the appeals process is now under way. But just as important as marriage equality is for our LGBT movement, we must also recognize the need in giving individuals a voice and platform to come out from under the shadows of fear and ignorance, and live a life under the umbrella of constitutional equality, respect, and human dignity. Over the summer, we heard of the discriminatory SB 1070 in Arizona that painted a target on the backs of all Latinos, and placed us all under the suspicion of being “illegal” so much as the authorities had a reasonable suspicion. Also, it was recently reported that a Gay 13-year old child named Asher Brown from Texas committed suicide by placing a gun to his head and pulling the trigger, all because of the torment and bullying he received in school over his decision to come out of the closet. At least nine other teens have taken their own lives in the last month for similar reasons. This injustice must stop, and we as a society need to stand up, with one voice, and declare our need and our right for a peaceful and equal co-existence to be shared within all communities. The fight is long from over… the work to reach our shared goals will continue. Now is the time to COME OUT and TAKE a STAND for EQUALITY! ¡Sí se puede!  Yes we can!

Antonio X. Garcia is a volunteer with the Latino Equality Alliance – an alliance of Latino and LGBT organizations and individuals working to increase support for LGBT people and issues in the Latino community.