Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Firstly, a disclaimer:  posting has been slow for the last month, and will continue to be slow for the next couple of weeks.

This post is dedicated to California's Prop 8 mess and equality for all people, which therefore includes equality for the LGBT community.  This morning, the California Supreme Court listened to oral arguments to overturn Prop 8 and to nullify the 18,000 gay marriages that have taken place, which would forcibly destroy the marriages of many people who lovingly committed themselves to each other in 2008 - including the marriage of one of the moderators of this blog.

*Click here* to link to a video of the arguments.

In February, Obama IS America! had the opportunity to attend a celebratory dinner for Chinese New Year with the Network on Religion and Justice for Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People.  This dinner followed a march that the group had through Chinatown with other organizations and individuals to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Marshall Wong, one of the leaders of this organization and the march, gave a moving speech which he has shared with us for this blog post.  Please find it below.  After his letter, please find a video included for your viewing pleasure called "Don't Divorce Me."

We greet the new lunar year with a mixture of elation and sadness.  Elation because two weeks ago, we witnessed the inauguration of a President who broke through a centuries old color-line and offers hope to everyone who has ever been excluded from the American Dream.  A president who, in his first week of office, has begun to dismantle some of the policies that have led to horrific suspension of civil liberties, legalized torture, and backlash and profiling based on race, ethnicity, and religion in our post-9/11 world.  A president who gives us hope that we will see progress in the near future in areas that have been unmovable for the past decade:  the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military, the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal employment non-discrimination law, the addition of sexual orientation, gender and disability in our federal hate crime statute, and the repeal of DOMA, the Defense of the Marriage Act.  A President who as a candidate opposed Prop 8. 

But in the midst of celebration, also we stand today comforting each other in the shadows of defeat.  Despite a valiant state-wide effort to defeat Prop 8, that raised significantly more money; that mobilized more volunteers; that touched more voters in person, by phone, or through ads than any other LGBT civil rights campaign in the history of the world…we lost by a narrow margin.  It will be some time before we will fully understand the reasons for this outcome, and what we can learn from the campaign that will inform our future efforts to win back the freedom to marry.  But in the meantime, while the roadmap is still being drafted, we will continue our work educating and mobilizing support in our community. 

There are more than 1 million Asian Pacific Americans in Southern California, the largest concentration in the country.  Among eligible API voters, our voter registration and participation are high.  We know that this past November, we witnessed dramatic progress in the number of API voters who support marriage equality.  But our work is cut out for us.  The exit polling data is pretty consistent and suggests where we have to focus our efforts:  We know that we need to mobilize younger voters who overwhelmingly support the freedom to marry.  We know that we need to make greater in-roads into API faith communities and limited-English speaking people who rely largely on Asian language media for their information.  Moreover, we need to build coalitions with other communities of color to ensure that when future campaigns for marriage equality are launched, that we not only have an official place at the table, but that we get the resources and buy-in to build a strong, multi-racial movement.  Anything short of that, especially in California, is a recipe for defeat.  But if we can fulfill that dream, victory will be ours. 

Next week we will have a booth at the lunar new year festival in Alhambra.  Our volunteers will be doing outreach in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.  In the coming months we have an ambitious agenda of a movie premiere, speaking engagements, training workshops, and other activities.  Please speak with Kat or any of the steering committee members here tonight for more information or to get involved. 

Now many of you are aware that we had planned to have our contingent led today by two convertibles carrying gay and lesbian newlyweds, decorated with “Just Married” signs and cans tied to the bumpers.  A few days ago we got a call from the parade organizers and were told that this would violate the rule that participants not make any political statements.  We agreed to make the change but we were disappointed, not only because we’d put a lot of work into making the arrangements, but also because it is a sobering reminder of how much work we have ahead of us.  We look forward to the day when celebrating the marriages and loving relationships of gay and lesbian couples will not be viewed as controversial, but as normal, and healthy and joyous.  We will see that day in the not too distant future. 

I want to use this opportunity to recognize the one of the couples that we invited to lead our contingent today:  Arthur Dong and Young Gee and their four year-old son, Reed.  Arthur and Young married last August after being together for 30 years.  I also wanted to recognize Curtis Chin and Jeff Kim who wed in October.  Are there any other newlyweds present? 

You have all chosen to open the new lunar new year with us today, marching for justice, feasting, toasting.  It’s been a great day.  But we also ask each of you to make a commitment during the coming year.  It is said that the Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work.  Fortitude and hard work describe exactly what we need for the battle before us.  Today we took a short stroll around Chinatown.  Join us on this long march to full equality.  It may be the journey of a lifetime. 

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

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