Casa de Maryland, the state’s largest immigrant advocacy organization, and Equality Maryland, the largest LGBT rights group, have forged an alliance to convince voters to approve same-sex marriage and to allow certain college-bound illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition.
Dubbed “Familia es Familia,” the campaign launched Tuesday in Langley Park with advocates framing same-sex marriage and the Maryland Dream Act as kindred causes grounded in a family-first sensibility. The campaign will draw its persuasive power from the personal experiences of young, LGBT immigrants.
Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro told the story of her brother Pedro, who came out to her and her sister 17 years ago, reported The Washington Blade.
“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, according to The Blade. “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.”
With Election Day barely two months away, Casa is planning a direct-mail campaign and will rally support for same-sex marriage at Hispanic Heritage Month festivals in September and October. Equality Maryland will target its constituent bases in Montgomery County and Baltimore in hopes of securing 10,000 LGBT votes in favor of the Dream Act.
“We know the immigrant community is going to be coming out strong to vote, and we’re going to be coming out strong to vote,” said Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland’s executive director. “Both communities are very highly motivated and will have incredible turnout in November.”
The immigrant-LGBT kinship emerged over the past decade, Evans said, as immigrant leaders fought alongside LGBT advocates in Annapolis on hate crimes legislation, anti-discrimination bills and the years of pitched battle that culminated five months ago with Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.
If the law survives November’s referendum, Maryland would be the first state in which voters approve same-sex marriage—succeeding where California fell short four years ago. The failure of California’s Proposition 8 was at first attributed largely to Latino voters. But when researchers and pollsters analyzed the results, Latinos had supported gay marriage as much as white voters had, Evans said.
“There is this perception that because of their religiosity and what people see as social conservatism in the immigrant community, that they don’t support same-sex marriage. But that is not a reality,” Evans said.
An April poll commissioned by the National Council of La Raza and Social Science Research Solutions found that 54 percent of Latinos nationwide support gay marriage. And that support is higher among Maryland’s Catholic Latinos, said Gustavo Torres, Casa’s executive director.
“We are very confident that Latinos understand the value of families,” Torres said. “If we communicate very clearly that someone wants to be married to someone that he or she loves, that’s the most important thing.”
Affirmation of the Dream Act would make Maryland voters the first to approve in-state tuition for undocumented students. The Dream Act referendum is “essential” to the momentum of immigrant-centric issues in Maryland, Torres said—and will serve as a bellwether for observers across the country.
“Everybody recognizes that it is so very critical that we win,” Torres said. “It’s going to send a very strong message at the national level. If we cannot pass the Dream Act in as progressive a state as Maryland, how are we going to pass the Dream Act at the national level? Or comprehensive immigration reform?”