JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida (center) was among the representatives of Asian Pacific American civil rights organizations taking part in a rally during Supreme Court deliberations on same-sex marriage. (JACL photo)

WASHINGTON — The JACL joined a gathering to support marriage equality in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26 as the court considered two cases addressing whether gay and lesbian Americans should have the same freedom to marry as everyone else.

Arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, took place on March 26, while the court heard arguments in United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on March 27.  The JACL has signed on to amicus briefs for both cases.

The gathering featured families, members of the GOP, iconic civil rights and religious leaders, and others. Speakers included Brendon Ayanbadejo, Superbowl champion and Baltimore Ravens linebacker; Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia; and the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral.

Priscilla Ouchida, JACL executive director, said, “The 10,000-plus members of the Japanese American Citizens League are proud to be here to celebrate the right to love. Japanese Americans felt the sting of what it means to be treated differently— 120,000 men, women and children were imprisoned during World War II. That was wrong. There was a time when this nation outlawed the right of a Japanese immigrant to marry an American. That law was wrong.

“There was a time when people of different races could not marry. That law was wrong. Today, many states prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. That is wrong too.

“We believe in a great America, a country where every person has the same rights, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your gender, no matter your sexual orientation. In 1994, the Japanese American Citizens League was one of the first organizations to support the right of every person to marry the one they love …

“We are a great America, but we can be a greater America when there are no barriers to the right to love.”

Other JACL members present were Pacific Southwest District Youth Representative Kevin Mori, Daniel K. Inouye Fellow Amy Watanabe, and AARP Norman Y. Mineta Fellow Jason Hata. Other organizations represented include Asian American Justice Center and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.

Statements from APA Organizations

“We strongly support marriage equality and encourage the Court to uphold equal protection for same-sex couples,” said Wendy Shiba, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. “Anti-miscegenation laws, which denied Asian Pacific Americans the right to marry freely, have a shameful history in our country. Americans of all races, sex, color, creed, or sexual orientation should have the right to marry the person they love and be treated equally under the law.”

NAPABA has long supported marriage equality. In 2008, NAPABA and six of its affiliates were among the 60 local, state, and national Asian Pacific American organizations that filed amicus briefs supporting equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in California. NAPABA has also joined amicus briefs in lower court proceedings in the Perry and Windsor cases.

“As a national civil rights organization that advocates for thousands of APAs, many of whom are LGBT, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who seek equal treatment under the law,” said Sharon M. Wong, OCA national president. “The rights that are accorded to heterosexual couples must be also be applied to same-sex couples.”

During the rally in Washington, D.C., OCA Executive Director Tom Hayashi spoke on the importance of the landmark cases: “The decisions that will be handed down simply but significantly will either continue to take us down the path of bigotry in this country or take us to a higher ground towards what our forefathers called ‘a more perfect union.’ The greatness of our country rests in our resolve and ability to advance the interest of all Americans and aspiring Americans irrespective of race, gender, ability, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Consistent with the organizational stance to uphold equality and equity for all APAs, OCA reaffirmed its commitment to marriage rights through a 2007 national resolution calling for legal recognition of married individuals without limitation based upon race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

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