A gay, undocumented activist from Southern California was among the people who traveled to Washington DC this week for the Supreme Court hearing on gay marriage rights.
Jorge Gutierrez says the coming out process came twice for him. "One, I came out as gay to my mother when I was 15 years and had an amazing and beautiful experience with her and my family being very loving and accepting of me. And then coming out as undocumented during my senior year in high school, and that was more painful and difficult for me."
More painful, he says, because he knew many more doors would close to someone who’s undocumented, compared to someone who is gay.
Gutierrez is 28, lives in LA, and he’s an activist with United We Dream, which persuaded President Obama to offer temporary legal status to some undocumented students. Gutierrez runs a project at United We Dream that builds bridges between the immigrant rights community and the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender community. "That creates a lot of interesting dynamics, to say the least," he says.
Homophobia is not uncommon in immigrant communities. Some gays and lesbians harbor anti-immigrant sentiments. In Washington DC, Gutierrez, who remains an undocumented immigrant until the government approves his application for deferred action, waved an American flag outside the nation’s highest court. And he met with gay and lesbian leaders to explain the importance of supporting undocumented gays and lesbians.
"For example," he says, "You could have where there’s two folks of the same sex where they’re in love with each other but both of these folks are undocumented. So we could pass marriage equality but if these folks are not given a pathway to citizenship, then marriage equality doesn’t really benefit them."
The common interest, from Gutierrez’ point of view, is social justice for everyone, and he should know. "I got an email once that said go back to Mexico because you’re gay and a wetback. Those two identities being used against me. It's not the first time I've gotten something like that. It just tells me I’m dong the work I'm supposed to do."
It’s work Gutierrez refuses to give up, until he can live legally in the country he’s called home since he was ten years old, and can marry the person he loves.