12/13/2013 07:01 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

When Love Prevails: Latino Families at the Center of Immigrant and LGBT Rights

Growing up in a small, rural Colorado town and knowing you're gay isn't 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.

Years later, when I was at Gill Foundation, I recounted the journey of acceptance by my very Catholic, Latino family. I had to believe that my family wasn't the only one with a gay family member. So I developed an initiative to challenge the common misconception that Latinos don't support LGBT people and issues.

We partnered with GLAAD and Bendixen & Amandi International to do one of the first and certainly most ambitious studies to measure Latino support for LGBT rights.

The results were inspiring:

  • Eighty percent of Latinos said they believe LGBT people often face discrimination, and 83 percent of Latinos said they support housing and employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.
  • Seventy-four percent of Latinos said they support marriage or similar legal recognitions for gay and lesbian couples.
  • Seventy-five percent of Latinos said they support school policies to prevent harassment and bullying of students who are or are perceived to be LGBT.

Since then, more studies and polls have shown strong Latino support for marriage equality, including a 2013 poll by the National Council of La Raza that showed that 54 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, compared with 53 percent of the general population. A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority (55 percent) of Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian Americans to marry.

Today, I'm thankful to see that Latino support for LGBT people and issues has continued to grow, not just from our families but from Latino community leaders and national organizations like the National Council of La Raza and LULAC, both of which have come out strongly in support of marriage equality.

There's no doubt that media coverage has made a big difference in growing acceptance for LGBT people. At GLAAD we know that media in English and Spanish provide an important way to reach people. When people learn the stories of everyday LGBT people, prejudices are diminished. Coming out and telling friends and family about our orientations and gender identities has led to a profound cultural change.

The political act of coming out has also propelled support for comprehensive immigration reform. Dreamers and other immigrants have inspired a movement by coming out as undocumented. Their courage has inspired others to fight deportations of family, friends, and entire communities.

GLAAD is among a number of LGBT organizations that stand with the immigrant rights community as part of a broad coalition that is fighting to ensure comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship.

Immigration reform may not happen this year, but that doesn't mean it's dead in the water. The bill passed by the Senate is alive until the end of this congressional session, at the end of 2014.

That's why the time is now for our communities to push harder than ever to ensure that the millions of immigrants in our country, including an estimated 267,000 LGBT undocumented adults, are fully integrated into our society, so that they can see their identities as a blessing and an opportunity for personal and community growth. GLAAD is committed to being part of this effort through to the end.