They are running for office with a burning mission — to alter the course of state marriage laws.
At a time when same-sex marriage again is on the national front-burner — with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney saying it should be banned through a constitutional amendment, while President Barack Obama endorsing same-sex marriage and the topic expected to be part of the 2012 Democratic National Convention — four openly gay, Latino political candidates who are poised to win office this fall are hoping for the chance to push to make same sex marriage legal.
Carlos Marquez, deputy director of the political action committee Victory Fund & Institute, says that 2012 marks a milestone in the LGBT community.
“At least one LGBT person has been elected and is serving in some capacity in every state,” Marquez says, “ and should the seven house and senate candidates we’re endorsing this year win, the U.S. will see the largest LGBT caucus in history.”
Marquez began his most recent caucus work fighting against the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA)—a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution created by conservatives to make same-sex marriage illegal. He was working with the ACLU to fight the amendment—it has yet to pass with enough votes in Congress.
Romney has said he would support FMA, Obama has said he does not.
In order for candidates to receive endorsement by the Victory Fund, they must fully support federal, state or local efforts to advance LGBT civil rights.
Jacob Candelaria, 25, who won the Democratic Party primary in New Mexico on June 5th by a comfortable margin, says: “Families have a right to be considered families. I refer to it as the ‘marriage for same-sex families law.’”
“New Mexico polls show more people support gay marriage than oppose it,” Candelaria says.
A Princeton grad, he will be the first, youngest, and only openly minority gay man elected to the state senate. Since he has no Republican opponent in the general election in November, he is slated to be sworn in as the next senator of New Mexico, representing Albuquerque’s West Side on January 1st 2013. He will replace retiring Sen. Bernadette Sanchez.
Born and raised in Albuquerque, his mother was a single parent. Candelaria’s district is predominantly Latino Democrat.
“The fact that an openly gay candidate can win by such a large margin speaks to the notion that New Mexico voters vote based on the character of the person and their values, not their sexual orientation,” Candelaria says.
The candidate says he would like the hallmarks of his term to be expanding healthcare to all who need it, develop and create jobs, and improve education.
Then there is Mary Edna Gonzalez, who is running for the Texas House of Representatives, District 75. She will be the only openly LGBT member of the Texas state legislature, having won her primary and facing no Republican opponent in the general election this November.
Dominick Moreno is running for the Colorado House of Representatives, District 32.
“Civil Unions have full support in Colorado,” says Moreno, who in 2009 was elected to the Ward I seat on the Commerce City Council — becoming the youngest councilmember in the city’s history.
Moreno, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in American Government from Georgetown University, was recently elevated to the position of Mayor Pro Tem and has served as a legislative aide for the Colorado State Senate and State House of Representatives. He is as an at-large member of the National League of Cities LGBT Local Officials Board of Directors.
He feels a responsibility to make a difference for gays and Latinos.
“As a Latino and an openly gay man, the truth is the conversation changes when you have a voice at the table representing your perspective,” Moreno says. “My district is 57 percent Latino. I feel passionate about running and being able to support bills like the one that gives undocumented students access to in-state tuition at universities in Colorado.”
“These are people who came to this country at a very young age,” he says, “[and] went to high schools in Colorado for at least three years. And as President Obama said they are in every way American except on paper.”
Jessie Ulibarri, a father of two, and also a native son of Commerce City, currently serves as a State Central Committee Member, of the Colorado Democratic Party. In November he will run for the District 21 Senate seat. He has made a point of being involved in both the Latino and gay communities. Ulibarri, was commissioner of the Denver GLBT Commission from 2007 to 2011, for instance, and was a founding member of the Colorado Latino Forum, among other things.
To be sure, there are diverse views on same-sex marriage within the Latino population.
Latino clergy, for example, have come out against same-sex marriage. But polls show that in general Latinos support same-sex marriage and endorse hate-crime protections.
These four LGBT candidates view fighting for same-sex marriage as being about doing what’s right.
“All citizens should have the freedom to marry the person they love, regardless of gender,” says Moreno. “Committed and loving same sex couples deserve access to the same rights, benefits and responsibilities that come with marriage.”