Hispanics and the LGBT Community

A new report shows support for equal rights

A new report shows that the Hispanic community tends to support LGBT rights (photo by Think Stock)

Countering sometimes popular assumptions that the Hispanic community is somehow anti-gay, a new report co-released today by National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) finds that Latinos are, in fact, as open and tolerant, if not more tolerant, than the general population in the U.S. when it comes to LGBT issues.

The report, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective, offers an in-depth look at how Latinos view gays and lesbians within their own community, as well as the level of support for LGBT issues.

The report, funded by the Arcus Foundation, tells us that Hispanics are actually more inclined to support legal same-sex marriage and to be more accepting of gays and lesbians in society than most non-Hispanic Americans. Also, Latinos are just as likely as any other group in the U.S. today to identify as LGBT.

“There is a clear misperception among the general population about where Latinos stand on LGBT issues, partly because the media pushes this narrative that the culture and values of Latinos and LGBT progress are simply incompatible,” says David Dutwin, vice president of SSRS and author of the report. “Such misperceptions manifest in story after story about a particular Hispanic group opposing a gay rights bill, even though this anti-gay sentiment is not reflective of all Latinos. In reality, as society is evolving on LGBT issues and becoming more accepting of this community, so too are Hispanics.”

But when same-sex marriage was legalized in New York this past year, The New York Times looked to Hispanic groups for comment about the potential backlash. The paper specifically quoted the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a conservative group that opposed the decision. The media in general has been criticized for focusing on Hispanic-led protests over issues of marriage equality around the country. Even politicians tend to buy into the hype, avoiding LGBT issues when addressing the Hispanic community on the campaign trail.

So will the latest findings change any of that?

Dutwin says Latinos – like any minoroty – tend to mirror the general population in that there are groups within the Hispanic community that are more intolerant than others. Religious people and those less familiar with American cultural values in particular tend to hold less accepting views of LGBTs, he admits, saying that religious communities that insulate themselves are particularly rigid in their attitudes concerning gays and lesbians. But isn’t that true for most traditional religious communities these days?

“Still, across the board, we’re seeing that exposure to the LGBT community is really the key to acceptance and tolerance for Latinos,” says Dutwin. “Many Hispanics come from countries where gays and lesbians are less upfront about their sexuality, so that enables this discomfort toward LGBTs to persist. But the longer these Hispanics live in the U.S. and the more they come into contact with gays and lesbians, the more likely they are to accept them and support pro-LGBT policies such as same-sex marriage.”

The report says that 64 percent of Latinos support civil unions and more than 80 percent are in favor of legal protections for hate crimes, job discrimination, housing discrimination and support for healthcare and pension benefits for LGBT Americans. And three out of four say they support openly serving in the military.

“Latinos, like other Americans, have come a long way in acceptance of the LGBT community,” says Eric Rodriguez, vice president of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR. “Without a doubt there is work to be done within our own community to promote acceptance and tolerance, but this report is a strong indication that we are moving in the right direction.”

A full copy of the report can be found online.