Yoshino said it wasn’t a unanimous decision, but JACL - which dates back to 1929 - did become the first non-LGBT national civil rights organization after the ACLU to support marriage equality for same sex couples.
Yoshino said because of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, there was a sensitivity when others’ civil rights are abrogated.
“I think we see it as a special obligation to always support the rights of other groups and individuals,” Yoshino. “We have to draw lessons from our own experiences. If you look at the history of Asian Americans I think you can point to a history of being marginalized in many ways.”
Even before the WWII incarceration, historical examples of Asian American discrimination go back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including laws limiting immigration, citizenship, and anti-miscegenation laws that prevented Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos from intermarrying with whites.
Indeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion made reference to the Loving case--the 1967 ruling that lifted all bans on inter-racial marriage--as a principal basis for his decision.
Wrote Kennedy: “A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause.”
The decision resonated with other Asian American civil rights groups.
“No members of our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status, should be denied equal protection of the laws,” said a group from the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium in a statement.
JACL has estimated that thousands of Asian Pacific Islanders are in same-sex marriages, many raising children. Asian Pacific Islander couples were also lead plaintiffs in equality litigation in California, Hawaii, and across the country.
Emil Guillermo is an award-winning TV journalist, and former host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” His book, “Amok: Essays from an Asian American Perspective” won an American Book Award. His columns on Asian America have been syndicated nationally, and can be seen on the the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog (http://www.aaldef.org/blog). His current project is writing and performing the “Amok Monologues,” a series of journalistic theater pieces. He lives in California.