Rally participants held up bilingual signs in support of equality. Photo: API Equality-LA
By Marshall Wong
Ten years ago, anti-LGBT forces gathered in vitriolic protests in the San Gabriel Valley — the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinese American community — against same-sex marriage and LGBT equality. It was a jarring sight: hundreds of Chinese people, young and old, led by religious extremists, carrying signs with hateful messages denigrating the LGBT community. Even more distressing was that these protests went virtually unchallenged, and coverage by the Chinese-language media made it appear that homophobia was a Chinese cultural norm.
Those protests in 2005 catalyzed the formation of API Equality-LA, a grassroots organization committed to advancing LGBT equality in the Asian American community. Now 10 years later, as a result of those efforts, there has been a seismic shift in public opinion in support of LGBT civil rights.
On July 19, barely a month after the Supreme Court’s decision that legalized same-sex marriage through-out the U.S., API Equality-LA learned that conservative Chinese clergy in the San Gabriel Valley had planned a march on July 19 to protest the Supreme Court ruling.
API Equality-LA, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA and other allies sprang into action and in less than 48 hours, mobilized more than 125 supporters to rally across the street from the church leading the homophobic march. In the face of hate and intolerance, the crowd delivered a message of hope and equality. LGBT supporters chanted “open hearts, open minds, this is how our community shines,” throughout the organized gathering.
Speakers included Congresswoman Judy Chu; L.A. Community College Board Members Mike Eng, Mike Fong and Scott Svonkin; and San Gabriel Mayor Jason Pu; West Covina Mayor Pro-Tem James Toma; and Rosemead City Council Member Polly Low. Several ministers, including Rev. Nori Ochi, Rev. Mark Nakagawa and Rev. Gary Oba also spoke of their support for the LGBT community, demonstrating that intolerant clergy do not speak for all Christians.
In addition, representatives of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (API Chapter), OCA (Greater Los Angeles chapter), Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team and Chinese Rainbow Assn. were also in attendance. It was a stunning demonstration of the growing breadth of support for LGBT equality in the Asian American community.
In contrast, the opposition drew fewer than 20 supporters, illustrating their declining influence.
Said API Equality-LA Executive Director Eileen Ma: “Throughout history, Chinese Americans have fought back against discriminatory immigration laws, bans on interracial marriage, legal segregation and hate violence. Based on this legacy, we should be the first to stand up against all forms of bigotry, including homophobia. Today’s outpouring of support for marriage equality and LGBT rights is a powerful symbol of the progress we’ve made. Together, we are making history.”