OPINION

Opinion: Marriage equality will be welcome news for Latinos

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JANUARY 06:  Couples embrace as they attend a wedding ceremony at the Broward County Courthouse on January 6, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Gay marriage is now legal statewide after the courts ruled that the ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court declined to intervene.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JANUARY 06: Couples embrace as they attend a wedding ceremony at the Broward County Courthouse on January 6, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Gay marriage is now legal statewide after the courts ruled that the ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court declined to intervene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

It’s about time. The Supreme Court recently announced that it would take up the issue of same-sex marriage. The high court accepted four cases from states whose bans on gay marriage were upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Since other courts have ruled such bans unconstitutional, the Supreme Court will settle the question of whether same-sex couples should be treated the same as other couples. Oral arguments will be heard in April, and a decision will come by the end of June.

As society evolves, so should our laws. And now it is time to ensure that same-sex couples receive equal protection under the law, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

- Raul A. Reyes

A ruling in favor of marriage equality will be welcome news for Latinos. It will promote traditional conservative values. Most importantly, it will bring our country closer to realizing our ideal of liberty and justice for all. 

Despite the stereotype of Hispanics being conservative on social issues, a majority of Latinos support same-sex marriage. In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that 52 percent of Latinos supported same-sex marriage, while only 34 percent opposed it. A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that Latino approval of same-sex marriage had risen from 35 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2013. No wonder that the leading Hispanic advocacy groups, including National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens, Hispanic Federation, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have all endorsed marriage equality. These groups recognize that our community supports the LGBT community. 

Latinos would benefit from an expansion of marriage equality. In 36 states plus Washington D.C., same-sex couples have the freedom to marry. However, same-sex couples in Texas and several southern states do not. Given that Texas is home to the second-largest Hispanic population in the U.S. and that the South represents several states with the fastest-growing Hispanic population, this means that Latinos there do not have the same protections as their counterparts in other states. Why should a gay Latina couple in Austin, for example, not have the same legal rights as one in Los Angeles?  Civil rights should not depend on geography; they should be enshrined into law. 

Allowing gay people to marry will actually promote conservative values. The institution of marriage promotes monogamy, strong families, and stable communities. A study by the Heritage Foundation called marriage “America’s greatest weapon against child poverty,” while the American Enterprise Institute says that an “intact family” leads to greater economic success and educational achievement for children. LGBT Americans deserve the opportunity to share in these benefits too, so that they, their children, and society can all reap the rewards. Consider that the better-off families are economically, the lesser the chance that they will need government assistance.

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Besides, a Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will benefit the Republican Party. Polling consistently shows that increasing majorities of voters support gay marriage, including most young Republicans. Once the Court has ruled on same-sex marriage, the GOP can move on and compete for votes without being held back by this hot-button issue.          

True, some people feel that same-sex marriage is an affront to their religious beliefs. But the freedom of religion that we enjoy as Americans also means freedom from religion; in other words, no one group has the right to impose their religious beliefs upon anyone else. Should the religious views of Muslims, Orthodox Jews, or Mormons apply to others?  Of course not. Nor should the views of any religion be used as a basis for denying same-sex couples the right to marry. 

Others are opposed to same-sex marriage because it changes the traditional definition of marriage. Yet clinging to the status quo for tradition’s sake is not a worthy goal. If it were, we might still have segregated schools and bans on interracial marriage. Instead, as society evolves, so should our laws. And now it is time to ensure that same-sex couples receive equal protection under the law, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

All Americans deserve full equality under the law. The Supreme Court should strike down the remaining state bans on gay marriage. 

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.

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