In Colorado, the Freedom to Marry Matters to Latino Families

Day by day, the list of Coloradans who support the freedom to marry has grown more and more diverse. The issue of marriage equality has fast become one that is bringing Latino communities and families together.

In Colorado, a new Latino leader has emerged to bring one voice and two communities together in the effort to win marriage for all committed couples. I sat down with him to discuss his life, his passion and his vision for Colorado families.

Dave Montez is the executive director of One Colorado, the leading statewide advocacy group working to secure and protect equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Coloradans and their families.

Q: First, tell me your story -- a story that many Latino families have faced or are facing now.

A. Growing up in a small, rural Colorado town and knowing you're gay is not easy. I did it with the love and support of an amazing family, but their journey to acceptance wasn't without its bumps and detours. For some in my family, it took time for them to accept me -- but as Latinos, we don't turn our backs on family. In the end, love prevailed.

Q: How does the journey that you and your family experienced relate to your work today?

A: I remember those lessons every single day in my new role as executive director of One Colorado. We are the leading statewide group working to secure and protect equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Coloradans and their families. Each and every day, we're fighting to ensure all committed couples across our state have the freedom to marry the person they love.

Q: That fight is not an easy one. What do you think is the path to success for marriage equality?

A: We know there are multiple paths available to overturn our state's discriminatory ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples, which could happen either through the courts or by a vote of the people. Our goal is to achieve the freedom to marry for all Coloradans as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure that our victory endures.

Q: As your family experienced a journey toward acceptance, so are Latino communities throughout Colorado. How will you guide that journey?

A: We at One Colorado are focused on a public education campaign that reaches Coloradans in their own communities. Victories in other states have proven that our families' stories of love and commitment connect with people in a powerful way. We also know that in the Latino community, we've been taught to treat others the way we want to be treated.

That's why just a few weeks ago, we launched Why Marriage Matters Colorado, our official public education campaign to build support for the freedom to marry. Our campaign has already picked up the support of key Latino community leaders like Denver City Councilman Paul D. López and Denver Public School Board member Rosemary Rodriguez. Read more about it here.

Q: Why is it important for you to specifically talk to Latinos in Colorado?

A: In many ways, Latino families are at the center of this important discussion. According to a groundbreaking report co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress, Latino gay and lesbian couples are more likely to be raising children than white gay and lesbian couples. For these families who are trying to take care of each other, there is no question that marriage is a Latino issue.

Importantly, recent studies and polls have shown strong Latino support for marriage equality, including a poll released in February 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute, which found that 56 percent of Latino Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian Americans to marry. When I look at these numbers, I don't see simple statistics -- I see many of my own family members and the powerful journey they've made to support the freedom to marry for all people.

This growth in support for LGBT people and issues is coming not just from Latino families, but also from community leaders and national organizations like the National Council of La Raza and LULAC -- both of which have come out in strong support for the freedom to marry.

Q: What is your vision for Colorado Latino families?

A: Our work must continue to share our community's stories and talk to our friends, family and neighbors about why marriage matters to all of us. Because when the freedom to marry is a reality in Colorado, we need to have built as much support as possible for our families. Creating that climate across our state is critical to winning and sustaining our victories.

One way or another, we know that full equality is coming to our state; it's not a question of "if," only a matter of when and how.