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Latino Support for Equality Goes Far Beyond Marriage

President Obama and Robin Roberts talk about marriage equality

SOURCE: AP/Pete Souza

President Barack Obama speaks with ABC's Robin Roberts in May, when he declared his unequivocal support for marriage equality. Latinos also support marriage equality, among other rights they largely believe should be extended to the gay and transgender community.

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The Pew Hispanic Center recently released yet another poll confirming that a majority of Latinos support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

According to the poll, 52 percent of Latinos favor affording same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage, with 34 percent opposed. Six years ago Latino attitudes on the issue were virtually flipped. In 2006 only 31 percent of Latinos supported marriage equality, with 56 percent opposed it.

Three other polls confirm majority Latino support for marriage equality. A spring 2011 poll commissioned by the National Council of La Raza found that 54 percent of Latinos support marriage equality for same-sex couples. A May 2012 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll similarly found that 55 percent of Latinos support marriage equality. And even more recently, a September 2012 NBC Latino/IBOPE Zogby poll found even stronger support among Latinos, with fully 60 percent of Latinos supporting equal marital rights for gays and lesbians.[1]

But what about Catholic Latinos? Given the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to marriage equality, is support for marriage equality less among Latinos that self-identify as Catholic?

No. Catholic Latinos are, in fact, strong supporters of the freedom to marry. By a 23-point margin, this month’s Pew poll found that 54 percent of Catholic Latinos support marriage equality for gays and lesbians, compared to 31 percent who oppose. The 2011 National Council of La Raza poll similarly found that 57 percent of Catholic Latinos favor marriage equality. One group of religious Latinos, however, remains unsupportive: A majority of Protestant Latinos still oppose extending equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Poll after poll confirms that a majority of Latinos in the United States favors fairness over discrimination with respect to marriage. But Latino support for equality goes far beyond support for marriage. By near-universal margins, Latinos support laws and policies that level the playing field for gay Americans in all areas of life.

Take workplace equality. Fully 86 percent of Latinos support laws that make it illegal to fire someone solely because he or she is gay or lesbian (it remains legal under federal law to do so, though some states have passed nondiscrimination laws). Like most other Americans, Latinos recognize that workers should be judged based on their skills and qualifications—not on job-irrelevant characteristics such as sexual orientation.

But Latinos’ support for equality doesn’t stop there:

  • 86 percent of Latinos support housing antidiscrimination laws that include sexual orientation protections.
  • 83 percent support laws that protect gay and lesbian individuals from violent hate crimes.
  • 83 percent support equal health care and pension benefits in the workplace for same-sex couples.
  • 78 percent support gay and lesbian troops serving openly in the military.

Following President Barack Obama’s historic announcement in support of marriage equality in May, conservative pundits offered doomsday predictions that his announcement would damage him electorally because Catholics and Latinos would abandon their support for the president.

These pundits didn’t do their homework. First, they failed to recognize that most Latino voters do not turn out to the ballot box based on social issues alone—many vote based on their opinions on other issues, including immigration, education, jobs, the economy, and health care. More importantly, they failed to recognize that just like President Obama, Latinos support equality for gay and lesbian Americans—not just in marriage but in the workplace, in the community, and in our society.

In fact, Latino support for the president is surging. Today registered Latino voters support President Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a 69 percent to 21 percent margin. Support for President Obama is even higher among Catholic Latinos, with 73 percent supporting the president’s reelection.

In the past four years, President Obama has fulfilled his promise to be the “fierce advocate” for gay and transgender rights that he said he would be when he was running for office in 2008. He repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He passed a federal hate crimes bill protecting gay people from violent crime. He took administrative action to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing. And if re-elected, he has promised to finally sign into law a bill that would once and for all make it a crime to fire someone because they are gay. Not to mention he’s the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality.

Latinos support these policies. They support the president. And they support equality for Americans, no matter their sexual orientation.

Crosby Burns is a Research Associate for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.

Endnotes

[1] In this column, the term gay is used as an umbrella term to describe people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

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