A Latino theologian teaching in Colorado recently published an electronic, bilingual book, free of charge, as part of a national effort "to begin a dialogue with Latino/a families and churches on sexual orientation, gender identity and the Bible".

Dr. Miguel de la Torre, professor of social ethics and Latino/a studies at Iliff School of Theology, is the co-author of A La Familia: A Conversation About Our Families, the Bible, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, a 126-page book addressing the challenges Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people often face in Latino/a families and churches.

"As Latinos and Latinas, we know what it means to live under oppression," said De La Torre.

"From current immigration policies, to discrimination in the work place, to anti-Hispanic biases in the media; we as a people are all too familiar with structural violence. To stand for justice can never be limited to Latinas and Latinos who are like us; it must also include the marginalized within our own familia," he added.

The book was also written by Methodist pastor Dr. Ignacio Castuera and by Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of Unid@s, the National Latina/o LGBT Human Rights Organization. In addition to Unid@s, the project was sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens' (LULAC), by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). De La Torre is a board member at HRC.

 A La Familia is an attempt "to make sure no one is excluded, no one is discriminated against, no one is abused due to prejudices and bias. It is an attempt for Christians to live up the good news of our faith," the book says.

"As Christians we struggle everyday with living the word of the Lord," said Melendez Rivera.

"As Latinas and Latinos we work to embedded in our lives and our families. A La Familia will guide us through a thoughtful dialogue about the integration of faith, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Catholics and Protestants Latinas and Latinos are a welcoming people. This guide will help expand, integrate and grow our communities and bridge the mythical schism so many believe separates us," she added.

De La Torre explained the book was written "as a pastoral guide" and "it was born out of a profound desire to faithfully integrate an excluded group of people back into the life of their churches and families".

The book itself explains it was written for two primary audiences: heterosexual people honestly struggling with LGBT issues and the Bible, and those whose sexual orientation and gender identity have marginalized them within their family or church or even both.

"While we know that God's extravagant welcome and justice are powerfully known in many Latino faith communities, this is not universally true," says the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "We've seen recently the tragedy in Puerto Rico as violence against gay and transgender persons is stoked by religious rhetoric. This is true in too many communities. We must do better.  We must ensure that love and respect are the fruits of our faith communities. A La Familia is a powerful step toward this kind of a world."

A copy of A La Familia can be downloaded free of charge and with no registration required at www.hrc.org/about_us/15728.htm.