Christine Chavez, 32, granddaughter of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, presided over the commitment ceremony of seven gay couples Wednesday in San Francisco, reports the Los Angeles Times. She was joined by openly lesbian Carole Migden, chair of California's State Board of Equalization, in leading the rally for equality for gay and lesbian couples. Organizers said the Cinco de Mayo event was intended to unite the struggle for gay marriage with the cause of Chavez's farmworkers and send a symbolic message to California's Latino population, which remains sharply divided over gay marriage.
For Chavez, the ceremony marked a passing of the torch. "I am here because I learned two lessons from my grandfather," she said on the steps of the California supreme court building, according to the newspaper. "You can't champion equality for your own people when you tolerate discrimination against any people because of who they are; and leadership isn't about following the crowd. It's about getting out in front and leading people in the right direction."
Migden added: "We are here to merge the movements and goals of the united farmworker community to that of the struggles of lesbian and gay Americans for complete civil protection. We want driver's licenses [for undocumented immigrants], we want marriage licenses [for same-sex couples]--we all want complete and total access and recognition to intrinsic societal and legal rights."
But as this gay gospel spread to the community, not everyone favored the same-sex ceremonies. Father Marcos Gonzalez, associate pastor at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pasadena, said that while discrimination against gays is vehemently opposed, same-sex relations are deplored as a sin.
"For Catholics, marriage is between a man and a woman. It's an even stronger feeling in the Latino community," Gonzalez told the Times. "We come from countries where such things are not discussed. Even among those who aren't practicing Catholics, it seems to be in the blood."
Others expressed confidence that Latinos, with a heritage of deeply rooted family life and strong links between generations, will eventually prove far more accepting of gay rights than the general public. Focus groups indicate that once Latinos accept that their own family members may be gay or lesbian, they will become more understanding of the need for equality and human rights.
"The silence needs to end. The taboo needs to be lifted," said Martin Ornelas-Quintero, executive director of the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization. "The more they see we are their children, we are their family members, the more that connection will be made."