Brad Veloz & Mike Rodriguez | San Antonio, TX
Brad Veloz remembers the exact moment that he discovered his passion for LGBT Latino activism: It was the Fall of 1987, and he and his partner Mike had just attended the 1987 March on Washington.
The men, who had been together as a couple since meeting in San Antonio, Texas in 1978, had previously attended the first March on Washington, in 1979, and they were disappointed to see only a very small contingent of Latinos or people of color. That's why in 1987, they were pleasantly surprised to arrive at the March and see many other Latinos at the march.
"It was the first time Mike and I were exposed to other LGBT Latinos and Latinas," Brad explained. "There were Latinos at the table who were making sure that we were included in the historic event - and it was truly wonderful. We heard my hero, Cesár Chavez, speak for equality for everyone."
The March inspired Brad to "come out" to his family members and co-workers as gay - and from there, he and Mike became very active with the Latino LGBT organizing community.
They were living in Washington, D.C. at the time, and they got connected with ENLACE, an organization through which they discussed with other LGBT Latinos/as ideas for a national Latino/a LGBT organization, which eventually took shape as the National Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization (LLEGO).
By 1989, Mike and Brad had returned to their home state of Texas, settling down in Houston. They became active in Gay & Lesbian Hispanics Unidos, a Latin@ LGBT organization in the city. Brad was elected president of the organization, and Mike was chosen as Treasurer. Through GLHU, the men worked to move the Latino LGBT community forward in Texas and beyond.
In 1991, GLHU became a lead organizer - along with LLEGO - of the first national Latino LGBTQ Conference in Houston. "It was the first time LGBTQ Latinos/as would be meeting with a national agenda - the first historical event for LGBTQ Latinos/as that traveled from all over the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Colombia, and we were thrilled to be on board," Brad said.
In the late 1990s, Mike and Brad moved to to San Antonio, where they became active contributors to the San Antonio Lesbian/Gay Assembly (SALGA) and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. They worked alongside many other members of the LGBT community, galvanizing support for LGBT Latinos and working toward visibility for Latinos/as in the LGBT community.
Mike and Brad have lived such amazing, full lives in their 36 years as a couple - and they've been stunned to see the LGBT community come so far. They’ve been in committed relationship for over 3 decades. During those years they witnessed the deaths of many of their friends who were lost to AIDS. They made a promise to each other to always take care of themselves and each other. They’ve had their ups and downs like many other committed couples. “But we believe having started our relationship on a solid foundation has helped us stay together. We are friends, we are loves and we are together,” Brad said.
But they know that there is still a lot of work to do - and they're not going to stop speaking out until all LGBT people are represented equally and fairly by the governments they are served by and the societies they contribute to. They know that it's time for the freedom to marry in their home state of Texas - and across the United States.
"The freedom to marry in Texas would send an important message," Brad explained. "It would say that the state of Texas values all of its citizens - including its LGBTQ citizens. It would say that all people are welcome - that all families are respected."
UPDATE: Brad and Mike recently became members of first LGBT LULAC Council in San Antonio. Still organizing and still going strong.