Arizona Latino Leaders Announce Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Latino leaders from across the state kicked off National Hispanic Heritage Month by announcing their support for marriage equality.

The central Phoenix gathering was organized by Why Marriage Matters Arizona, a coalition founded a year ago by the ACLU of Arizona, Equality Arizona, Freedom to Marry, and the Human Rights Campaign. The event coincided with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15.

See also: -Arizona Missing Out on $5 Million in Tax Revenue Due to Gay-Marriage Ban, Study Says

"There's a perception out there that the Latino community does not support marriage equality, but that's not the case," says Jeremy Zegas, a project director for the coalition. "There are regular folks from the Latino community who are vocal supporters, and who believe very strongly in marriage equality. Not in spite of who they are, but in many cases because of it, because of the values that have been instilled in them growing up."

About 20 Latino politicians, philanthropists, community leaders, and business owners attended the event held at Valle del Sol, a health and human services non-profit serving the Latino community.

"This is about ending discrimination, a goal that resonates with Arizona's Latinos," says Mark Mazon, president and CEO of Friendly House, a non-profit that offers workforce development, education programs, and immigration services.

Dolores Huerta, the civil rights and labor activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez, was present at the event. "Marriage matters for the same reasons to all people, gay or straight," she says. "And it's our responsibility to support inclusion of our gay and lesbian friends and family members in the important institution of marriage."

The event came on the heels of a Friday federal court decision in which a judge ruled, for the first time, that a same-sex marriage performed out of state must be recognized in Arizona. In that case, a widowed Green Valley man, Fred McQuire, sought to be included on the death certificate of his husband, George Martinez. The couple had been together for over 40 years but married in California earlier this summer. The judge ruled in McQuire's favor.

Zegas says this was an exciting victory, but also a reminder of work that still needs to be done in Arizona. While McQuire lived to see his marriage legally recognized, Martinez did not. "It was good news, but it was a little too late," Zegas says. There are currently two other federal same-sex marriage cases moving forward in Arizona, Zegas says.

Why Marriage Matters Arizona held a second event yesterday evening in Tucson as part of that city's Latino/Latina Pride Week.

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Ashley Cusick
Contact: Ashley Cusick