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A Minority Within a Minority

While some same-sex Hispanic couples enjoy new benefits, others fight for legal equality and acceptance

En español | On the day New York passed its marriage equality law, in June 2011, Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte lay in a Manhattan hospital bed with an intestinal infection. That scenario, says his partner, Humberto “Tico” Torres, convinced them to take advantage of the new law and get married.

See also: Defying the macho culture.

Despite 27 years of devotion and commitment to each other, they had no legal standing as a couple. Without being married, neither the hospital — nor any other institution — would recognize them as next-of-kin or allow one to make medical decisions if the other were incapacitated.

Two men embrace behind a rainbow flag, Same Sex Rights

— Photo by: Corbis

“We realized that we really had no rights, that anything could happen to us at any time and we weren’t protected,” says Torres.

After Rodriguez-Duarte, 49, recovered, he and Torres, 50, signed up for a lottery to determine which gay and lesbian New Yorkers would be the first to legally marry in the Empire State. They said, “I do” on that historic first day: July 24, 2011.

Only New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. When it comes to the rest of the country, gays and lesbians do not have the choice — or the newly acquired benefits that come with it — that was presented to Rodriguez-Duarte and Torres.

“It was a beautiful day,” says Torres, “but bittersweet because [same-sex marriage is] a right being rejected across the country.”

As gay Latinos, photographer Rodriguez-Duarte and fashion stylist Torres consider themselves a minority within a minority. While some gay and lesbian Hispanics believe that Americans are more accepting of same-sex unions than people in their native countries, the couple isn’t so sure about tolerance in the Land of the Free.

Next: The right to decide. >>

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