DignityUSA President Offers Latino/a Culture Insights at Congressional Briefing

Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues

Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues, president of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT Catholic and supporters, recently was a panelist at a U.S. Congressional briefing on Latino/a support of LGBT issues.  The panel, organized by La Raza, a national Latino/a advocacy organization, and sponsored by U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, focused on a newly released research study, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective. (Bondings 2.0 reported on this study when it was released in April 2012.)

DignityUSA’s newsletter, Dateline, reports that  David Dutwin, PhD, of Social Science Research Solutions, which published the report

“explained the national study demonstrated that, contrary to public belief, people of Hispanic background are as likely to supportLGBT civil rights, including marriage, as the rest of the population. In fact, 54% of Hispanics currently affirm the right of same-sex couples to marry,very similar to the 53% of the general population who express support. The trend was similar among Hispanic Catholics in the U.S., with 57% supporting same-sex marriage, compared with 56% of all Catholics in the U.S.

The survey was underwritten by the Arcus Foundation. Speaking about why the Foundation felt this research was important, Vice President of Social Justice Programming Tom Kam said it is crucial to understand the complexity of opinions among ethnic populations. He felt it was ‘a unique opportunity to hear the voices of Latino people of faith, voices often overshadowed by the leadership of religious institutions, and voices that may be unheard or misrepresented in the public debate.’ ”

Rodriguez-Nogues provided some cultural context for understanding the report:

“Discussing the implications of the survey data, Lourdes went on to explain that in Hispanic culture, the family and the group, rather than the individual, are the center of society. Therefore, efforts to create division in families, such as has been recently documented to be a tactic of the National Organization for Marriage, could be particularly damaging among Hispanics. She noted that the strength of families, and the breadth of extended family, are reasons to keep creating opportunities and models for LGBT people to come out and make civil rights issues personal.”

She also offered some personal background and insight:

“She reflected on her many years of being ‘out in English, but not in Spanish,’ and on the desire not to introduce a topic of prospective discord into her family as the reason for this. Lourdes said that when she ultimately did decide to come out to her mother, who like in most Hispanic families is both the head and the heart of the family, her mother responded with two questions. ‘She asked me if I was happy, and if I had a relationship with God,’ said Lourdes. ‘Those were the things that mattered to her.’ ”

¡Felicidades y muchas gracias, Lourdes!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Strong Support for LGBT Issues Among Hispanics–Especially Catholics

Catholics who support LGBT equality know only too well that the long-standing media image of Catholics as hostile to accepting LGBT people is blatantly false.   So, it may come as no surprise to them that a new survey shows that Hispanics, another population often whose LGBT attitudes are often depicted in similarly negative fashion, are actually very supportive of equality and justice.

According to a Seattle Times article, the report conducted by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) research group and  the National Council of La Raza, a major Hispanic advocacy organization

“found Latino support for many pro-gay policies at least on par with that of the population as a whole.

“Latinos in the SSRS study, for example, support same-sex marriage at a rate of 54 percent, compared with 53 percent of those in the general population who indicated such support in a Gallup poll last year. [Note: in most polls on marriage equality that track religious affiliation, about 50-55% of Catholics usually indicate support.]

“And by even wider margins, respondents in the SSRS study favor policies aimed at protecting gays against hate crimes and discrimination related to jobs, housing and military service.”

The Times article highlights the fact that this new information dispels old myths about Hispanic people:

” ‘There is a clear misperception among the general population about where Latinos stand’ on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said David Dutwin, vice president of SSRS and author of the report.

” ‘In reality, as society is evolving on LGBT issues and becoming more accepting of this community, so too are Hispanics.’ “

When Catholic Hispanics are looked at separately in the report, support for LGBT issues is even stronger:

“Three out of five Hispanics in the U.S. identify as Catholic. And while polls put support for same-sex marriage among lay Catholics at around 56 percent, church teachings and most church leaders oppose same-sex marriage.

“Among Catholic Latinos in the SSRS survey, 57 percent said they support same-sex marriage, while support among other Christians was around 43 percent.”

Interestingly, the researchers themselves admit that they expected to find Catholicism fueling anti-LGBT sentiment among Hispanics, but in fact, that hypothesis did not prove true.   In an interview with Candace Chellew-Hodge for an article on ReligionDispatches.org, Dutwin, the lead researcher confessed:

“With somewhere between three out of five Hispanics identifying as Catholic there was a thought walking into the survey that if there is a lack of support and acceptance in the Hispanic community, then it’s the Catholic nature of the community that’s driving it. Turns out that’s not the case at all. A majority Catholic Hispanics support legal gay marriage. It’s actually Protestant Hispanics that are under 50% support of gay marriage.

My own belief about strong Catholic support for marriage equality is that one reason it is so strong is because Catholics maintain strong family ties.   Since Hispanic culture is also very centered on the family unit, I speculate that this reason may be one of the motivators for such strong support among this group, too.

You can read the full text of the SSRS report and data by clicking here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry