Imagine that: ‘Pew gap’ among Latinos on gay rights?

Imagine that: ‘Pew gap’ among Latinos on gay rights? October 19, 2012

I am sure that this will come as a major shock to many occupants of The Washington Post newsroom: The divisions among African-Americans over gay rights also show up among Latinos and, no surprise, these differences often are rooting in faith and varying levels of religious practice.

Once again, there is a “pew gap” at play in this scenario.

Of course, it is certainly news — as shown in a Pew Forum poll that’s making headlines — that Latino views on gay-marriage are rapidly changing, with a slight majority now affirming government attempts to change the definition of marriage.

That’s an important story. I know that.

Yet, at the same time, there are Latinos — just as there are millions of African-Americans — who for a variety of reasons, including religious beliefs, do not equate ethnicity with sexual orientation. There are other people of color who do.

In other words, this is a story with two sides.

This leads me to that fascinating story that ran in The Washington Post the other day under this headline: “Immigrant, gay rights groups form alliance — and meet resistance among some Latinos.”

A few weeks ago, CASA of Maryland and other immigration advocacy organizations formed an alliance with gay rights groups to urge passage of two hot-button initiatives on the Maryland ballot in November, one legalizing same-sex marriage and the other making some undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition.

Elected officials joined them in making the announcement, which came as no surprise. The news media had been alerted days in advance.

Of course media had been alerted days in advance.

And, of course, this alliance “came as no surprise” to those who engineered the alliance.

However, the alliance did come as a surprise to some Latino leaders who, obviously, were left on the outside of this political marriage. You will be stunned to know that this has something to do with religion.

… (For) Bishop Angel Nunez of the Bilingual Christian Church of Baltimore, a longtime CASA of Maryland ally, the news struck out of nowhere.

Nunez has long worked with CASA to promote immigrant causes, including the Dream Act in-state tuition initiative, but he strongly opposes same-sex marriage.

“Pastors are calling me up saying, ‘What’s going on here?’ ” he said, adding that he has been urging his 250 regular congregants, who hail from 23 nations, to vote for the Dream Act and against the Civil Marriage Protection Act. “I don’t know if I feel betrayed or not, but right now I’m confused.”

Typically, he said, he gets ­e-mails from CASA about its plans. But this time, Nunez said he didn’t know what CASA was up to until he read in the newspaper about the alliance, which also includes the prominent Latino advocacy group National Council of La Raza. “No outreach got to us … to at least say, ‘I know we don’t agree on this, but this is what we’re doing,’ ” he said.

So why the lack of outreach to Latinos who are active in evangelical Protestant churches or highly active in Catholic churches? Why is it surprising, to CASA and to the Post, that — while the beliefs of many Latinos are changing on gay-rights issues — that this is not the case for millions of Latinos who frequent church pews?

Doesn’t everyone outside newsrooms and activist offices understand that sexual orientation and ethnicity are equal? Well, some believe that and some do not. That’s the heart of the story.

Thus, to its credit, the Post team does get around to stating the obvious:

Experts say that younger Latinos and those whose families immigrated less recently are more likely to be open to same-sex marriage.

But many Latino religious leaders remain staunchly opposed to the referendum that would allow civil marriage for gay men and lesbians. The alliance has brought to the surface a conflict many Maryland Hispanics face between supporting an organization that has helped them in the past and going against deeply held religious beliefs. And while many are eager to see the Dream Act pass, their enthusiasm does not translate to supporting the marriage equality referendum.

Calling Nunez “a huge leader in our community” and a longtime ally of his organization, Gustavo Torres, CASA’s executive director, said last week that the failure to inform him about the alliance was “totally an oversight.”

So there is a story here, a good one. But is this story surprising?

Only to people at the Post, it seems (and certainly in other newsrooms). To me it looks like another example of one of the most dependable forces in American politics — the pew gap. It’s there. Cover it.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

2 responses to “Imagine that: ‘Pew gap’ among Latinos on gay rights?”

  1. This Gallup Poll may throw some light on why gay rights groups may form alliances with immigrant and ethnic minority groups, on a pragmatic basis as well as casting the struggle for same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue:

    “Nonwhites are more likely than white segments of the U.S. population to identify as LGBT. The survey results show that 4.6% of African-Americans identify as LGBT, along with 4.0% of Hispanics and 4.3% of Asians. The disproportionately higher representation of LGBT status among nonwhite population segments corresponds to the slightly below-average 3.2% of white Americans who identified as LGBT.”

    If this is true – and there doesn’t seem to be a reason to doubt the figures – it will be fascinating to see the effect this has on religous affiliation; does this slightly higher rate of LGBT identification mean that those so identifying are less likely to be members of a church, or do they hide their identity, or do they look for churches and denominations that are perceived to be ‘gay-friendly’? Hey, there might be a story there!

  2. The Post says:

    ‘Experts say that younger Latinos and those whose families immigrated less recently are more likely to be open to same-sex marriage.’

    There are many Latinos, particularly in the Southwest, whose families immigrated centuries ago. In New Mexico, there were Latino settlements before Jamestown and Plymouth. The idea that the Latino community is composed mainly of immigrants is throwing off the coverage of the issue. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens for over a century.