By Frankie Miranda, President, Hispanic Federation
As we mark this Pride Month, we must reflect on the great advances on LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S., but also the road we have ahead to achieve equality. My own life, as the first openly gay president of Hispanic Federation, is an example of the ways in which we have progressed but must work to end discrimination once and for all. Congress now has a chance to make federal changes to help this mission, and we must all pay attention.
As a Puerto Rican, I was penalized by my own country simply for being gay. In 2003, Ricardo — the man I love and with whom I shared a life — was deported to his home country of Brazil. Although immigration laws allow straight couples to adjust their immigration status through marriage, that benefit was denied to us. Ricardo was given a 10-year penalty without a possibility of parole or a chance of returning to Puerto Rico or the U.S. We were absolutely devastated, and in an instant, we joined the thousands of people who suffer the terrible reality of being separated from their families due to discriminatory laws.
For a decade, Ricardo and I struggled to maintain our relationship despite the economic and psychological impacts of our forced separation. In the end, our love and perseverance triumphed, but not without the help of the people who advocated for our rights and the progress that was made over time. In 2013, thanks to a Supreme Court decision which recognized the right of married couples of the same sex to be protected by rights at the federal level, Ricardo and I were able to get married and he obtained permanent residence in this country. He is now an American citizen.
In the time since Ricardo and I were forced apart, the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. has changed, not only thanks to court decisions but also in terms of public opinion. However, there are several glaring gaps in how the country has progressed, and there are many changes to be made to ensure equality.
Ricardo and I have been together for over 20 years and have been legally married for more than seven years, yet the lack of permanent and comprehensive federal and state protective laws ensuring our rights leaves us and millions of others uncertain about our place in this country. Depending on where you live or how you identify yourself, discriminatory practices can result in a poorer quality of life, lower incomes, inadequate health care and a lack of safe housing. This continued assault on the rights of LGBTQ+ people is an injustice that our political systems can help end once and for all with the recently introduced Equality Act.
It is extremely important that Congress immediately passes this Equality Act, which would provide consistent and explicit protections against discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, and federally funded programs. This Pride Month, I call on the public to write to their legislators, expressing their support for the Equality Act. We must fight against discrimination together, and recognize that all communities struggling for recognition and rights are united in the pursuit of justice.