Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told a packed room of Netroots Nation attendees yesterday that the Obama administration needs to support LGBT families.
The remarks were made at the liberal bloggers conference during a talk on immigration and the power of Latino vote. The room was full of mostly Latino activists and Latino civil rights organizations, so it was interesting and encouraging to hear him mention LGBT families during a talk focused on the Latino community. Both communities have had somewhat strained relationships in the past and that strain was intensified this past December when DADT passed and the DREAM Act failed on the same day.
The appearance at Netroots was part of a 20-city immigration tour that Gutierrez has embarked upon to keep up the pressure on the president and the congress in prioritizing comprehensive immigration reform. The Chicago congressman mentioned that he and his staff have made it a point to reach out to the LGBT community during their tour and have asked members of the community to join Latinos in the fight to get some real movement on immigration.
"The LGBT community has families that the Obama administration should recognize, too," said Gutierrez.
It has been remarkable to see immigration elevated as an issue at Netroots this year. Indeed, the number of people of color in attendance appears to be greater, and they have certainly had a very noticeable presence. Sitting on the panel with Rep. Gutierrez was Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, who gave the session the kind of cache that immigration as an issue has been lacking at past Netroots gatherings.
For a queer person of color, I've been especially heartened to see so many of the gay blogosphere's most prolific and widely-read writers really interested in telling the stories of DREAMers and in learning more about how they can use their influence to advance the cause for immigration reform. This was most apparent at the LGBT Netroots Connect preconference event where an entire afternoon session was dedicated to hearing the stories of some amazing DREAM student activists, some of which are receiving awards at the closing plenary on Saturday. The pre-conference event was the most widely-attended gathering of LGBT bloggers since organizers started the gathering in 2008.
I chatted with one of those students, Felipe Matos, after the pre-conference to get his thoughts on the session. Matos told me that while it may be that the LGBT community is only just now reaching out to Latinos to work together on this, that it is still welcome since there is still so much work to be done to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.
I'm hopeful that with folks like Matos and Rep. Gutierrez, both respected immigration reform activists with much influence, actively seeking to engage the LGBT community and find ways to work together that we'll become an unstoppable force for change that the administration cannot and will not ignore. As Rep. Gutierrez mentioned in his closing remarks, "We must be firm with our friends in office because we put them there."