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At the request of Anne Stanback, Executive Director of Love Makes a Family, Dr. Julio Morales, Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut, School of Social Work, organized Latinas and Latinos for Marriage Equality, an ad hoc group of heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Latinos and Latinas who believed that the freedom to marry the person of one's choice was a fundamental right of every American citizen. The ad hoc group, of 135 Latino/leaders, from approximately thirty Connecticut cities and towns, gave Dr. Morales permission to add their names to his declaration in support of full and equal rights to same sex couples.

Latinas and Latinos for Marriage Equality recognized that one of the strengths of the Latino community is its ethnic, racial and religious diversity and that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are also part of that valued diversity. Indeed, many LGBT Latinas and Latinos have contributed greatly to the Latino community and the larger society and are found in every trade and profession.

The declaration stressed that expanding access to civil rights to loving; committed same sex couples did not harm society. Rather, it strengthened families already living and working in our communities. The declaration ended as follows: "We must not let the voices of hate and intolerance in the Latino/Latina community, or in any other community, be the loudest voices in this debate. We, the undersigned, urge Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os to support civil marriage equality for all people".

On Thursday, April 22, 2004 Dr. Morales called a press conference to share the 135 names of the individuals who formed Latinas and Latinos for Marriage Equality and to introduce prominent leaders of the Latino/a community of Connecticut who spoke in support of Love Makes a Family's efforts to expand Connecticut's laws to include same-sex couples. Among the heterosexual and lesbian and gay leaders who spoke at the conference were Juan Figueroa, Jeannette De Jesus, Evelyn Mantilla, Fernando Betancourt, the Reverend Julio Flores, Bessy Reyna and Dr. Morales. Some of the conference participants spoke of having lesbian or gay siblings; others stated that they themselves were lesbian or gay. Most spoke of the need to have Latino/a participation in the debate against DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act and the importance of Latino/a support of marriage equality. They often added that marriage equality must not be seen as a white civil rights issue only.

The highly effective press conference was very well attended and given coverage by television and radio stations as well as the printed press. CLARO's history starts with that press conference.

In May of 2004, Dr. Morales called a meeting of people who formed Latinas/os for Marriage Equality and asked if they were interested in forming a Latina/o group that could address marriage equality and other issues relevant to LGBT Latinos and Latinas. Fifteen people attended the meeting and unanimously expressed interest in a Latino/a LGBT organization. Thus, in May, 2004 Latinas and Latinos for Marriage Equality was disbanded and CLARO was born. Members of CLARO testified on behalf of marriage equality and hosted Eat, Drink and be Married dinner parties that financially benefited Love Makes a Family. Simultaneously CLARO members approved a mission/vision statement reflecting a broader Latino/a LGBT agenda.

CLARO's Mission/Vision statement is posted on this website. We encourage readers to view it to learn what CLARO means and what it hopes to accomplish. Readers may also be interested in other posted documents. CLARO became incorporated in June of 2006. Its volunteer membership approved a set of by- laws, a Conflict of Interest Policy, and a Membership Application. CLARO has filed for 501 C3 tax exemption status.

CLARO has participated in the last three Gay Pride events held in Hartford. Given that many families attend PRIDE with young children, two years ago Dr. Morales, as President of CLARO sent a letter to PRIDE organizers requesting that speakers at PRIDE abstain from using profanity. CLARO was a key lead sponsor of Trans Plantations a play written and performed by Janis Astor del Valle, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who identifies as a Puerto Rican lesbian. In its role CLARO attained the support of units within UCONN School of Social Work, The National Association of Social Workers/CT Chapter, and several academic units at the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut. The play, performed on March 19, 2008 at the Hartford Stage sold out and Ms. Astor del Valle was given several standing ovations for her one woman performance. The play will be performed at Smith College School of Social Work in June 25, 2009. Janis credits CLARO for making that performance possible.

CLARO has, over the years, held several social functions, including Christmas parties and summer picnics. It is working at planning a fund raiser and a conference it is calling D'eso No Se Habla, translated as "One Does Not Speak About That". The conference will bring together LGBT Latino individuals and families in efforts to address cultural and linguistic issues relating to homophobia, to support Latino/families that are proud of their LGBT members and to help LGBT families and individuals that may be working at reaching such pride.

 
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