Double standard: The fight for LGBT rights and immigration reform

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    An immigration reform supporter at the pride march. (VOXXI/Susana G. Baumann)

    An immigration reform supporter at the gay pride march in New York City last month. (VOXXI/Susana G. Baumann)

    I noticed something the other day. My Facebook wall blew up with overwhelming support for gay rights when the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Prop 8. Journalists and friends alike heralded the move as historic. No one accused anyone of biases.

    By contrast, whenever someone stands up for immigration reform, the reception isn’t so welcoming or one of unanimous consensus. When some of my colleagues who are reporters show slight support for immigration, I hear and read things like, “You are an activist,” “You are a one-sided commentator,” etc.

    This got me thinking whether or not these two issues — which have been hot talking points as of late — carry a double standard.

    Immigration reform is not as black and white as the gay rights fight

    Gay rights and immigration reform are trending topics in Washington these days.

    Gay rights and immigration reform are trending topics in Washington these days. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    “It’s important for media to tell the stories of actual LGBT and undocumented immigrants,” Brian Pacheco, a spokesperson for GLAAD, said. “But while we’ve seen a rise in stories of LGBT people in media, unfortunately that hasn’t been the case for immigrants.”

    The distinction I’ve heard many say with regards to the issue of espousing support for gay rights and downplaying immigration as a similar crusade is that gay rights come from a proud lineage of this country’s Civil Rights Movement.

    Immigration, a journalism photographer friend of mine told me recently, is not so black and white. There are hurdles that are too large to tackle and thus the issue is often polarized, making it seem like anything but a civil rights cause.

    There might be evidence to support the claim made by my colleague. The same day that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed, the DREAM Act measure — which would provide a citizenship path to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — failed a procedural vote.

    The bill was five votes shy from passing the Senate and reaching the 60 votes needed to reach Obama’s desk.

    ‘There is no right to illegally immigrate to the United States’

    I’ve been told repeatedly that when dealing with gay rights, the answer is simple to address. Some have gone as far as to suggest that the demands of gay activists such as DADT and Defense of Marriage Act are the “Civil Rights of the 21st Century.” And, while immigrant advocates have made similar claims, it doesn’t seem to carry the same momentum.

    Even Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has made this point repeatedly.

    “There’s this notion that I feel like sometimes people are demanding their rights,” Rubio said at last year’s annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

    “The truth is, there is no right to illegally immigrate to the United States. And when we talk about illegal immigration, it’s not about demanding rights, it’s about being the most compassionate nation in the history of the world.”

    Pacheco argues that both immigrants and gays suffer similar discrimination and that the issue intensifies when a person is both gay and undocumented.

    “The way media outlets have reported immigration reform reduces it to simply an ‘issue,’” Pacheco said, adding, “and as a result divorces it from the people whose lives hang in the balance.”

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