Marriage Equality Ruling Resonates Among Korean Americans

Pictured above: The White House is lit up in rainbow colors in commemoration of the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

by SUEVON LEE | @suevlee

In a historic 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held Friday that same-sex couples nationwide have an equal right to marry, sending waves of jubilation around the country among gay marriage supporters, including within the Korean American community.

“I’m just so joyous,” said Jeff Kim, a program director at the L.A.-based California Wellness Foundation who wed partner Curtis Chin in 2008 in California. “It’s the end of a long journey and battle for equal rights for LGBT people. It’s long overdue because when you boil it all down, there was no argument against gay marriage except bigotry—there was no justification for it.”

“It’s now the law of the land and I’m really happy that the Court caught up with what is justice,” added Kim.

Fellow Los Angeleno Paul Park, who also wed spouse Dean Larkin in 2008, wrote to KoreAm that he had been checking SCOTUSblog all week long in anticipation of the ruling. “The moment Justice [Anthony] Kenndy’s opening remarks were shared, I was elated,” Park said via email. “Twenty years ago, [the idea of same-sex marriage] wasn’t in my vocabulary. In 20 years, the idea of families with delimiters will hopefully be an artifact of the past. The qualifier of ‘gay marriage’ will become a figment of the past. Maybe someday we won’t be ‘Asian American’ but just ‘Americans.’”

The Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the majority held that due process and equal protection under the law forbid the states from banning same-sex marriage, makes gay marriage legal throughout the country. Before Friday, same-sex marriage was legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, but forbidden elsewhere in the country.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 6.32.26 PMJustice Anthony Kennedy (Photo courtesy of Commons Wikimedia)

In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, referring to same-sex couples: “It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Hailed as a major civil rights victory and watershed ruling akin in significance to Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that lifted bans on interracial marriage, Friday’s decision was embraced by Korean American and Asian Pacific American advocacy organizations alike.

“No members of our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status, should be denied equal protection of the laws allowing couples to fully embrace the American values of love and family,” the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) said in a statement.

“The Obergefell decision follows the important path blazed 48 years ago by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, where it struck a death blow to discriminatory marriage laws that targeted not just African Americans but also Asian Americans,” Stewart Kwoh, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles, said in a statement. “While the work for full equality is far from over, we applaud the Court for extending marriage equality to our LGBT brothers and sisters.”

And on social media, notable Korean Americans voiced their support. “This was all you,” tweeted the comedian Margaret Cho, who is open about her bisexuality.

The actor George Takei, who came out as gay in 2005, wrote on Twitter, “My eyes shine with tears as marriage equality is ruled the law of the land. What a pride weekend it shall be!”

As much as Friday’s ruling resonated around the country, some advocacy groups are urging greater acceptance within the greater Korean American community of LGBTQ individuals—an issue touched on by KoreAm in this June 2013 feature story about the community’s attitudes towards same-sex marriage.

“We’re thrilled by the national progress on LGBTQ equality, but deeply disappointed by the hostility we and our families continue to face in Korean American communities,” The Dari Project, an LGBTQ Korean American organization based in New York City, said in a statement. “There’s no way to sugarcoat it: homophobia and transphobia are still incredibly serious problems in Korean American communities and cause very real harm to LGBTQ Korean Americans.

“We urge Korean American allies to not be silent when they witness homophobia and transphobia in Korean American communities and to use today’s court decision to start conversations in their families, churches and other Korean American community spaces that will help Korean American communities recognize the humanity of LGBTQ people just as the Supreme Court did today,” added the organization.

See Also

A Look at Same-Sex Marriage in the Korean American Community

Seoul Court Overturns Police Ban on LGBTQ Pride Parade

Gay Rights Activists in Korea Step Up to Support LGBTQ Youth


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