Sunday, March 29, 2009

PRESS RELEASE - ESSAY CONTEST

March 26, 2009

"Think, Write, Win: Choose Love" College Scholarship Essay Challenge

(Los Angeles, CA) Asian Pacific Islander Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (API-PFLAG) issues a challenge to all graduating college-bound high school seniors and returning undergraduates: Write a sharp, well-argued essay in favor of same-sex marriage and win a college scholarships split between an English language category and a Chinese/Korean language category. Total prize winnings will be $5,000. The contest is open to all students who permanently reside in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Andre Ting, educator, businessman, and longtime activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities (LGBT) community says, "We know Asians value education and achievement. Here's another way to win recognition for your ability and show off your knowledge of Asian Pacific American history."

API-PFLAG chair Harold Kameya, devoted parent of a daughter who is lesbian, adds "Everyone in the state of California knows about Proposition 8. Right now, my daughter is deprived of a basic civil right: to marry the person she loves. Why should she be? Every parent wants happiness, stability and companionship for their child."

Two prominent ministers also lend their voices in support of the contest. Reverend Jonipher Kwong of California Faith for Equality and Reverend Dae Jung of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles both emphasize the importance of living out God's word through deeds that support all God's children. "When some are denied rights, and others granted them, this is our opportunity to reflect and act on the belief that 'what harms or blesses one, harms or blesses all.' Through inclusion we can truly say we have kinship in Christ," says Rev. Kwong. Of marriage equality, Rev. Jung says, "To deny any individual that privilege and that celebration is to deny them what God has already given them. One of the ways we give God full glory, which is the aim of our faith, is to be who you are, to be fully alive as a person. To do that is to give God glory."

Prominent Asian Americans are judges, including the two ministers mentioned above, plus Dr. Julius Nam, professor of religion at Loma Linda University, State Board of Equalization Chair and congressional candidate Hon. Judy Chu, and State Assembly member Hon. Mike Eng. Two school board members, the Hon. Jay Chen of Hacienda Heights-La Puente District and the Hon. Henry Lo of the Garvey District will also encourage students in their districts to enter.

"This is a community with a lot of talent - much of it in the math and sciences," says Cynthia Liu, writer, former teacher and one of the contest organizers. "We're challenging young Asian Pacific Americans to show off their ability to write well and persuade others on substantive issues of the day. We're wondering where our community's 'Obama' might be."

On March 5, 2009, the California Supreme Court reviewed the controversial statewide Proposition 8 passed in November, 2008. At issue are several procedural questions having to do with the ability of a ballot initiative to alter the state's constitution, and the fact that the court already issued an opinion finding that civil unions are "separate and unequal" to marriages under the law. In May, 2008, the California Supreme Court justices wrote that marriages between same-sex couples should be imbued with the same rights and responsibilities expected of differing-sex couples.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center, where API-PFLAG and its co-sponsors are announcing the contest, joined with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Equal Justice Society back in November, 2008 to petition the California Supreme Court to stop enactment of Proposition 8. The allied legal defense funds point out that if enacted, Prop. 8 mandates discrimination against a minority group.

The contest is co-sponsored by organizations hosting some of the best, sharpest legal minds in civil rights legislation: lawyers with the Lambda Legal Defense Fund recently twice argued the constitutionality of same-sex marriage before the State Supreme Court, and are ready to do so again in front of the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. The California State Supreme Court's opinion post-Prop 8 will be rendered sometime in April or May, 2009.

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List of co-sponsors: Asian Pacific Islander Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (API-PFLAG), PFLAG Los Angeles, PFLAG national office, Lambda Legal, Korean Resource Center, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, Jia Lan Literature Foundation, Chinese Rainbow Association, API Pride Council, API Equality Los Angeles.

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