Dolores Huerta: Same-sex marriage is a matter of ‘basic human rights’

Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta said Tuesday that same-sex marriage is really a matter of “basic human rights.” “When we talk about…

Dolores Huerta was in Arizona on Tuesday speaking about her support for same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBT people. (VOXXI/Griselda Nevarez)

Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta said Tuesday that same-sex marriage is really a matter of “basic human rights.”

“When we talk about equality in marriage and when we talk about the freedom to marry, we are talking about basic human rights,” she said. “This is exactly what it is—it’s basic human rights.”

Huerta is a longtime advocate of same-sex marriage and supporter of LGBT rights. She currently sits on the board of Equality California, which advocates for the rights of LGBT people.

SEE ALSO: Two Supreme Court victories for gay marriage

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta joined Latino leaders from Arizona on Tuesday to advocate for same-sex marriage. (VOXXI/Griselda Nevarez)

The 84-year-old was in Arizona on Tuesday to show her support for the “Arizona Latinos for Marriage” campaign launched that day. The campaign seeks to extend the freedom to marry to all couples in the state regardless of their sexual orientation.

Huerta told reporters on Tuesday that same-sex couples in Arizona don’t have the same benefits and legal protection as other couples, because they are denied the right to get married legally in the state.

She said one of the best ways to advocate for the issue is by holding discussions and teaching people about the struggles same-sex couples face.

“We have to go out there and really educate our community to make them understand that when we have a person who is gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual in our families, we have to protect them,” she said. “They’re part of our families, and we have to give them the kind of support that they need.”

Latinos’ support for same-sex marriage increases

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows Latinos have dramatically changed their views over same-sex marriage in the last few years.

The survey shows that in 2012, an estimated 52 percent of Latinos favored same-sex marriage and 34 percent opposed it. That’s a turnaround from 2006, when 31 percent of Latinos favored same-sex marriage and 56 percent opposed it.

SEE ALSO: Same-sex couples file for repeal of gay marriage ban in Florida

Huerta said one of the reasons why she thinks there’s growing support for same-sex marriage among Latinos is because people in the gay community—especially Latinos—have come out about being gay and have reached out to Latinos.

“Before, many of the leaders in the gay community thought that they couldn’t go to the Latino community because they would reject them,” she said. “But once they began going to the Latino community and asking them to support gay-marriage, then we began to see that turnaround.”

Still, she said, there’s plenty of work to be done—especially in Arizona, where the state legislature earlier this year approved a controversial bill that sought to allow business owners to deny services to LGBT people and others based on religious beliefs.

Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, known as SB 1062, in February. She said the bill did not address “a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona” and that it could “result in unintended and negative consequences.”

Same-sex marriage should be a ‘fundamental right’

State Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix), who joined Huerta at Tuesday’s campaign launch, was among those at the state legislature who voiced strong opposition to SB 1062. He disclosed he is gay at a news conference in March, saying the uproar over SB 1062 drove him to go public.

“I decided I wanted to come out and make it known that I was a gay Latino, and I was very proud of who I was,” he said on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: Openly gay elected mayor of Long Beach makes history three times

Steve Gallardo

State Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) spoke Tuesday about his experience of coming out as gay. (VOXXI/Griselda Nevarez)

Gallardo explained that one of the reasons why he came out publicly is because he wanted to let other LGBT people—especially those who are still afraid to come out—know that “they’re not alone.” He said he also saw it as a way to bring the discussion of LGBT rights to the forefront.

“We should all have the right to determine what our families look like,” Gallardo said. “We should also decide who we’re going to love and who we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with. That’s a fundamental right that we should all have.”

Evangelina Montelongo, whose daughter is lesbian and son is gay, agreed with Gallardo about allowing people to marry whomever they want. She told reporters on Tuesday that she wants her son and daughter “to be accepted as human beings and to have the same privileges and the same rights that we all have.”

“What counts is love, not who you choose to love,” Montelongo insisted.