“Latino Marriage Equality”
By Elvira Arellano
A famous and revered African American leader, campaigning against slavery, addressed a group of white women campaigning for equal rights for women. The title of her speech was “And ain’t I a woman?” This freedom fighter was asking why these white women activists were not including African American women, fighting against slavery, in their cause.
She was angry. She was also facing the most basic injustice in the history of the United States. The refusal of the U.S. government to legalize millions of Latinos should be seen for what it is: that same racism. And President Obama’s refusal to implement the policy of prosecutorial discretion to stop the separation of our families should be seen for what it is: cowardice in the face of that racism. That is why we raise this question today: When we will we get “Brown Marriage Equality?”
There are over four million U.S. citizen children who have at least one undocumented parent. Many of them have one parent who is a U.S. citizen and one who is undocumented. To quote President Obama in his recent support for gay marriage equality, “Aren’t these good families with long standing, faithful relationships?” Don’t we love our children as much – or more – than white people?”
The marriages of undocumented Latinos are performed, recognized and celebrated in Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical churches. The only place these marriages are not recognized is under U.S. civil law.
Yesterday, in Charlotte, North Carolina, hundreds of pastors and priests joined over a thousand people in front of the immigration court where Gabino Sanchez was seeking to stay together with his wife and two U.S. citizen children. Gabino was racially profiled by South Carolina police, arrested for driving without a license and turned over to I.C.E for deportation. Driving to and from work was his great crime. These civic and religious leaders came because they respected Gabino’s right to a marriage and a family.
President Obama has publically recognized that he has the power to close Gabino’s case and set aside his deportation, respecting his marriage and his family. In the first six months of 2011 Obama deported 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children. By doing so he destroyed the lives they had built and left their children without a father or a mother. Many of these children ended up in orphanages. He promised in August that his department of Homeland Security would set aside deportation for thousands of men and women like Gabino across the country. Yet it seems like this is just another broken promise.
When I was in sanctuary with my son Saulito a group of five white women, calling themselves “mothers against illegals” came to protest in front of my church. I appreciated their honesty. They said they wanted me deported so that I would take Saulito to Mexico. They said they were fighting so that the “Saulitos” would not take what they believed belonged to their white children.
Charlotte North Carolina, where Congressman Gutierrez went yesterday to stand with Gabino Sanchez, will be the site of the National Democratic Convention in August. We need to bring President Obama a message at his convention: We demand Latino Marriage Equality!