Statement by Japanese American Citizens League Director of Public Affairs Kristine Minami Opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment

Good morning.  My name is Kristine Minami, and I am the Director of Public Affairs for the Japanese American Citizens League.  The JACL is the nation's oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, and we are proud to stand with our brother and sister organizations today to condemn the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which seeks to write discrimination into our Constitution.

The Japanese American community is keenly aware of what it means to be the target of government sanctioned - and implemented -- discrimination and mistrust.  The JACL was founded 75 years ago at a time when Asian Americans were the target of literally hundreds of laws and statutes limiting our rights, when we were told ""Japs Keep Moving, This is White Man's Land.""  The JACL was established to fight discrimination in all forms, and our mission is to defend the civil rights of all Americans who suffer as a result of intolerance. The role of the government should be to protect our freedoms and liberties, not limit them.  

This is why the JACL opposes the Federal Marriage amendment - because we believe discrimination in any form is un-American.  When any of us are denied the rights and privileges enjoyed by others, society as a whole is hurt and our national purpose diminished.  Our country was founded on the belief that freedom and liberty are basic, fundamental guarantees, but unfortunately we live in a society that requires vigilance to protect our civil liberties and human rights.  Over the years, JACL, along with our partners here, have fought together to maintain those freedoms that are so fundamental to our democracy.  We marched on Washington in 1963 to fight for civil rights, full employment and decent housing to destroy the fallacy that anything less than full equality is acceptable; we fought for equal protection when the Supreme Court considered Loving v. Virginia 37 years ago and struck down a ban on interracial marriages, to destroy the fallacy that love can be legislated; and 16 years ago we won redress for the Japanese American community unjustly incarcerated by our government during World War II and proved the power of our democracy when our government recognized and apologized for the wrong that was committed in 1942.  Now, just as then, the JACL believes that separate institutions - be it in education, housing or marriage - are not equal, and that the legislature has no business barring two consenting adults in love - be they of different races or of the same sex - from being wed.

The JACL has always been on the frontline of fighting for liberty and equality, and we cannot stand quietly and allow discrimination to be written into our Constitution.  Indeed, in 1994, the JACL national board instituted and our national council affirmed our position that marriage is a fundamental human right that should be guaranteed to all.  We were one of the first organizations to do so, ten years ago, and we stand here now to decry any attempt to undermine the most sacred of American values, equality before the law.

When the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights circulated a sign-on letter 
against the marriage amendment, we were the first to sign on to it.  JACL
stands here proudly today with our colleagues, friends and partners in
demanding that discrimination be kept out of the Constitution - we stand here
because Americans of all backgrounds understand that this amendment is
simply wrong. 
 

The sponsors of this amendment and its supporters will tell you that we need to
pass it in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage.  At a time when half of all
marriages end in divorce, denying marriage rights to people who love each other
hardly seems like the solution.  Like the Japanese Americans during World War II,
gay and lesbian Americans have become political scapegoats.  If we have learned
anything from the lessons of that dark era in our history, we have learned that we
must not allow fear to push us to deny anyone their fundamental rights.

 

The JACL opposes the Musgrave/Allard Amendment because our Constitution is a
document that should protect freedom, not undermine it.  If this amendment were to
be adopted, it would become the stain of unequal justice for this generation.  The
amendment dishonors our national values, and would, for the first time, serve to restrict 

rights under the Constitution.  JACL proudly joins with these organizations here today,
and hundreds more, in calling upon Congress to reject this unneeded, unfair, and
un-American amendment.

 

Thank you.  

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