Immigrants for Marriage Equality

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July 12, 2013
The "Immigrants for Marriage Equality" contingent at this year's Chicago Pride parade.

Guest blogger Luis Román is a Uniting America Fellow at Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. 

This Pride season has been like no other. The Supreme Court struck down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), marriage equality has returned to California, and the U.S. Senate voted on a historic immigration reform bill.

But in Illinois, that excitement was not fully lived. Back in May, the Illinois General Assembly ended its session without voting on a bill that would allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry. So even though Section 3 of DOMA was struck down, thousands of couples in Illinois still cannot easily access the federal benefits available to same-sex married couples. That includes the opportunity for a U.S. citizen in a same-sex marriage to sponsor his or her undocumented immigrant spouse.

There are more than 1 million immigrants living in Illinois. Some identify as LGBT; many others support equality for our community. In fact, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey, 52% of Latinos favor marriage equality, and only 34% oppose it. Much like the general community, immigrants who know an LGBT person are more likely to support equality. That’s why it’s critical to build long-lasting relationships between both communities, and dispel myths and stereotypes.

Considering the historic moment for both immigrants and LGBT people, and the huge role that immigrants play in Illinois, it’s important to harness the power that is possible when both communities come together. Which is why during this year’s Chicago Pride, a contingent of immigrants and immigrant rights activists proudly marched behind Lambda Legal’s “Immigrants for Marriage Equality” banner.

The banner—and those marching behind it—were received with huge enthusiasm from the crowd. Lalo Aguayo, was ecstatic about participating in the contingent. “I felt proud and honored to support Lambda Legal, an organization that has historically supported my beliefs and values,” he says. “It was also a great opportunity as a member of the Latino LGBTQIA community to represent the immigrant participation in the marriage equality movement.”

Sebastino Aviles, a member of United Latino Pride who helped carry the banner says, “It’s important to highlight the achievements of marriage equality thus far, but we cannot forget that there is still a lot of work to be done with equal rights for marriage across the country and immigration reform.”

This kind of display of solidarity and cross-community collaboration is critical as we move forward in our fight for LGBT equality. We cannot do this alone.

Previously: The Untold History of LGBT Latino Activism