A new poll finds a majority of Latino voters support inclusion of gay couples in any immigration reform legislation. (Photo/Getty Images )

LGBT families should be included in immigration reform, Latino voters say

A majority of Hispanic voters strongly support immigration reform legislation that includes lesbian and gay binational couples, according to a new Latino Decisions/Immigration Equality poll.  Sixty-four percent of Latinos think that citizens who are lesbian or gay should also have the right to sponsor their partner for residency. This support crossed different religions, with 71 percent of Catholics and 53 percent of born-Again Christians supporting an inclusive immigration reform bill.  This included both U.S.-born (63 percent) and foreign-born (65 percent) Latino voters.

“Latino voters, like most voters, see family as family, whether gay or straight,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “These results underscore that an inclusive bill will have broad and deep support among people of faith,” she said, adding that “while some are using scare tactics about border security and the LGBT community to distract from common-sense reform, our poll shows those tactics are nothing more than fear mongering.”

The poll comes at the same time that a first-of-its-kind study found that 30 percent of the over 900,000 thousand adult immigrants in the U.S. who identify themselves as gay, bisexual or transgender are undocumented.  Of these, 71 percent are Latino. The report, from the Williams Institute of Law at UCLA, found that more than 48,000 adults are in same-sex couples in which one or both spouses are not U.S. citizens.  “Under current immigration policies, many of these couples, along with the 24,000 children they are raising, may face separation if same-sex spouses or partners are not able to sponsor each other for a work visa,” said Dr. Gary J. Gates.

The issue of whether gay families will be included in immigration reform package is already being debated as Congress works on crafting legislation.  Recently Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said, “I think if that issue (gay rights) becomes a central issue in the debate it’s going to become harder to get it done because there will be strong feelings on both sides.”  Speaking about immigration reform recently at a Politico forum, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain said “if you load this up with social issues and things that are controversial, it will endanger the issue.”

But Latino Decisions political scientist Sylvia Manzano says the poll is indicative that voters — particularly young voters — see things differently.

“The broader point about sexual identity is that it is not really a big sticking point for the Latino electorate, and this is important for politicians to consider,” says Manzano. “For the American electorate, the younger the age, the more voters are favorable to same-sex marriage and LGBT equality, and we have to remember Latinos are a young population,” explains Manzano, saying the poll’s results show this.  “Sixty-four percent is a lot more than half, we’re ending up at almost 2/3 of Latino voters, and this is what the voters are saying,” Manzano says.

“As more of these younger people become part of the voting electorate, it’s not a good strategy to pick on non-straight couples,” she adds.

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