I have been married to my wife for 41 years. Through the years, I’ve been struck not by our differences, but by our similarities. I have a gay family member who has been in a committed relationship for 25 years. His partner has been accepted into our family and we consider him one of us. I know he wants to marry his long-time partner for the same reason my wife and I did: to share a life-long commitment, to care for one another, and to let everyone in our family and the larger community know that we are a family.
We all celebrated in February of this year when Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill into law that provided the freedom to marry for all
Washingtonians. This was a joyful day for my family, but short-lived because the law is at risk of repeal unless Washington voters approve Referendum 74 this fall. This is an important issue for the Asian Pacific Islander community to support, because marriage enables loving, committed couples to maintain and grow strong families.
When family is the priority, we build strong families. When community is the priority, we build strong communities. Right now, there are members of our community fighting to protect their families but cannot do it without the help from their family, friends, and neighbors. The API community needs to approve Referendum 74 to allow the loving gay and lesbian couples in our community to preserve family unity and strengthen social harmony.
Creating a strong family is a core tenant in my Filipino tradition, as it is in most API cultures. We have been able to do this despite our challenges with family separation due to the long immigration process, or making ends meet when the economy is hurting, or navigating through generational differences between elders and young ones in our community. Through all of life’s twists and turns, family has always been a priority.
In my professional life, I have also seen how strong families contribute to young people’s development. During my tenure as the Executive Director of Washington Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse, I worked with many young people who were working hard to keep their family intact amidst the challenges youth face. Regardless of who the mother loved or who the father loved, a strong family base was the key predictor to a young person’s success.
Other gay and lesbian couples in my life are raising families, bringing their kids to soccer practice, and wondering how they are going to afford college tuition. Marriage tells the world about the depth of their commitment and gives them the ability to protect their families at life’s moments of hardship.
Their families are our families and we must support them in this struggle.
At one time or another, we have all helped out in the community: dropping off meals during a family emergency, watering a neighbor’s garden while they are away, or sharing resources when times get tough. We do these things because we know the importance of keeping our communities together. Gay and lesbian people are in our communities and need our support more than ever right now.
This year my wife and I will celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary. Through our many years of marriage, we have raised three children. My marriage and my children are gifts that I am thankful for everyday. Stand with me and my family to approve Referendum 74 so that all our family members, friends and neighbors can marry the person they love and fully share in this gift of family and community.