Ethnic Communities Speak out Against Gay Marriage

A new wave of opposition to same-sex marriage is gaining ground among ethnic communities and recent immigrants, according to ethnic media reports. In San Francisco and in cities across the country, ethnic communities are "coming out" in full force, forming their own religious coalitions and organizing protests to oppose same-sex marriage.

If gay-friendly comedian Margaret Cho is your idea of the Korean-American community, look again. The image of Cho marching at a rally for gay marriage, as appeared in the May 19 edition of the Korean-language newspaper Korea Times, is anything but typical.

A commentary in the Korea Times just four days earlier may be a more accurate reflection of the community's politics, according to community insiders. The author compared same-sex marriage to mad cow disease: Gay marriage "destroys holy marriage and the cycle of life. It makes humans mad, so I call it mad human disease," writes Young Goo, who is a pastor at a Christian church.

Ethnic Christian coalitions are at the forefront of the movement against same-sex marriage.

On May 18, 100 people gathered in Los Angeles to voice their opposition to same-sex marriage. Among the speakers were Latino activists Luis Galdamez, spokesperson for the Campaign for California Families, and Vicente Martín, president of the organization Familia Hispana, which represents 1,900 Christian churches in California, reports Marilú Meza in the May 19 issue of Spanish-language daily La Opinión.

A recent "Rally to Protect Marriage" in Sacramento was co-sponsored by BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny), a Christian organization dedicated to "rebuilding the family by rebuilding the man."

"If California legalizes same-sex marriages," says BOND founder and president Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, "it will destroy the family, especially the black family."

On April 25, some 7,000 people in San Francisco's Sunset district -- primarily Chinese Americans and Christians from 180 Bay Area churches -- protested same-sex marriage, reports Julie D. Soo in the May 21 edition of San Francisco's English-language weekly AsianWeek. Gay marriage "could lead to the extinction of the entire human race," said event spokesman Rev. Thomas Wang, as reported in the Chinese newspaper Sing Tao. "There will be no future if the United States does not repent."

Marcos Gutierrez, host of a Bay Area Spanish-language talk show on La Grande 1010-AM, estimates that 65 percent of the people who call in to his show are against same-sex marriage. Most of these defend their beliefs by quoting the Bible.

Religion is the backbone of politics opposing gay marriage, according to a national survey of 1,515 adults of every ethnicity conducted Oct. 15-19, 2003, by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center. More than eight in 10 opponents of gay marriage said it ran counter to their religious beliefs.

Ethnic groups in San Francisco are far less supportive of the city's decision to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians than the city's white population, according to a citywide poll of 1,034 people conducted on March 2, 2004, by the Chinese American Voters Education Committee. While 76 percent of Caucasians said they supported the decision to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, only 62 percent of Latinos, 49 percent of African Americans and 38 percent of Asians agreed.

There are cultural and historic reasons for the Chinese community's strong backlash against same-sex marriage, says former political candidate Rose Tsai.

"Chinese, in 5,000 years of history, have acknowledged that homosexuality has always existed. But, it is accepted with the understanding that you don't glorify such relationships," Tsai is quoted as saying in AsianWeek.

Chinese Americans value family and community over the individual, adds Rev. Cal Chin, a senior pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown. "I wouldn't use 'conservative' to describe Chinese American views," Chin says in the same article. "I would say that Chinese Americans are more corporate in their thinking; they think about how an individual and an individual's actions impact the community. You can't act in isolation."

Many new immigrants, especially those from China and Korea, believe that same-sex marriage goes against their culture. But radio talk show host and San Francisco community leader Julie Lee says this may change as people become more educated. "China used to jail homosexuals, but even China has become more open-minded."

Some reject the notion that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue.

Rev. Raymond Kwong, who organized the rally in San Francisco, leads the newly formed Bay Area Christians for Traditional Marriage (BACFTM). "We are sympathetic to true minorities. Gays and lesbians are not a genuine minority," he says in the AsianWeek report. "I have talked to many African American ministers and they are incensed that the civil rights bus has been hijacked by a radical group. When were there separate entrances for gays and straights? When have gays gotten worse jobs and lower pay than straight people? I've never seen any gays who had to go to the back of the bus."

Detria Thompson, in the March 19 edition of the black newspaper San Francisco Bay View, writes that many African Americans believe that race "easily trumps sexual orientation in the now crowded different-discrimination sweepstakes." But this "assumes that lesbians and gays have the option, if not a duty, to mute their behavior so as not to alarm straight people." Yet, "all gays and lesbians can't 'pass' for straight, and even if it was possible to do so, being able to 'pass' misses the point."

White gays and lesbians may experience less discrimination than African Americans, but they still experience discrimination, just as educated middle-class African Americans still experience racism, Thompson writes. "Quantifying discrimination by demographics is necessary, but is usually futile and counter-productive precisely because your pain never quite measures up to mine."

Elena Shore works for NCM, an association of over 600 print, broadcast and online ethnic media organizations founded in 1996 by PNS and members of ethnic media. Aruna Lee contributed to this report.

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