Thursday, September 3, 2009

CFE's Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong speaks at API EQUALITY-LA event

On August 22nd, API Equality-LA hosted a workshop called Crossroads: The Intersection of API & LGBT Civil Rights. Several community leaders spoke atthe event, including: L.A. City Clerk June Lagmay, historians Eric Wat andAlice Y. Hom, Karin Wang of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center,Marshall Wong of API Equality-LA, immigration attorney Ally Bolour andReverend Dr. Jonipher Kwong of California Faith for Equality.

The event was targeted toward Asian/Pacific Islander (API) leaders in southern California who have endorsed API Equality-LA, with the goal of making them moreeffective advocates of marriage equality. It was the first of its kind tolearn about queer Asian history in Los Angeles, the history ofdiscrimination against APIs in the United States, Asian LGBT immigrationissues, examples of how other Asian organizations addressed marriageequality to their constituents, and the challenges of engaging Asian faithcommunities about LGBT issues.

Of particular interest was CFE spokesperson Jonipher Kwong’s presentation about faith matters in the API community. During his presentation, he broke down the differentreligious positions on homosexuality and their views on marriage equality. He discussed API religious demographics and some of the obstacles encounteredwhen reaching out to API faith communities, particularly to Buddhist templesand conservative churches.

Jonipher also highlighted that within those communities (particularly Filipino and Korean Americans), people whof requently attend their respective services tend to be more difficult to reach out to about marriage equality and other LGBT issues than those who attend less frequently. This fact was mentioned earlier in the day, when Karin Wang of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center emphasized that 78% ofAPIs who regularly attended services voted yes on Prop 8.

The “Crossroads” event proved to be a successful one, with a closing breakout session that gave attendees the chance to brainstorm ideas of programs that their organizations could lead in the fight for LGBT equality.A skills-building component is currently in the works as a second part ofthis program, and is expected to take place in the near future.

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