Stephanie Nitahara is our JACL Pacific Southwest District director. She recently sent out a very upbeat message calling attention to three important meetings to be held this weekend. Unfortunately, they are all being held on the same day: Sunday afternoon, May 4.

What was interesting was that the meetings are not JACL-sponsored events. Rather, they all have to the with LGBTQ issues.

JACL has involved itself with LGBTQ matters after passing a resolution at its 1994 National Convention advocating support for same-sex marriage — the first civil rights organization to take this step. JACL was about 19 years ahead of the times.

It was not until June of last year that the Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting same-sex marriage, and refused to rule in a case involving a violation of Proposition 8 in California. This, in essence, permitted the marriages to proceed in states that allowed them.

Certain of the more conservative Christian denominations have been struggling with the issue because their interpretation of the Bible forbids homosexual behavior. A meeting to be held at the Evergreen Baptist Church (L.A.) features a dialogue with a panel of gay Christians who will tell their stories. Also on the panel will be Rev. Nori Ochi, whose interpretation of some of the supposed anti-gay passages will be cast in a more gay-affirming light.

Being a member of the organization sponsoring this meeting, the Asian Pacific Islander Christians for Social Justice, (API-CSJ), I would be there this Sunday, but instead, I will be at the Quiet Cannon Restaurant in Montebello at a luncheon honoring a dear friend, Ellen Kameya.

Ellen, with her husband, Harold, struggled to cope with their lesbian daughter 26 years ago. She emerged from the struggle to become a founding member of the Asian Pacific Islander Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (API-PFLAG).

Also to be honored will be June Lagmay, retired L.A. city clerk and founding co-chair of the Asian Pacific Lesbians and Gays, and Karin Wang, who served as vice president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice as well as being a founding member of Asian Pacific Islander- Equality.

On the other side of town, at the West L.A. United Methodist Church, Marsha Aizumi will be there with her transgender son. She and Aiden will tell of their journey as they dealt with Aiden’s sexuality and gender transformation. Marsha authored a book telling her remarkable story, “Two Spirits, One Heart,” which I read.

Mother’s Day comes a week following. Marsha and Ellen Kameya demonstrate so well a mother’s unconditional love.

Also, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Having the above three programs in our community is a way to bring about respect and understanding in an area long neglected. What better way can we have to demonstrate what it means to be an Asian Pacific American?

For the Evergreen Baptist meeting, questions can be directed to For the Montebello meeting: West L.A. United Methodist Church: (310) 479-1379.


Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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