AABANY’S LGBT Committee Hosts Asian-Black Solidarity Panel

On June 16, 2020, the LGBT Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) hosted a panel discussion addressing the importance of Asian-Black solidarity. The panel featured: Jennifer Ching, Executive Director at North Star Fund and former Project Director of the Queens Legal Services (LSNYC) and Director of New York Appleseed; Jin Hee Lee, Senior Deputy Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Jason Wu, Attorney at the Legal Aid Society and Political Chair for GAPIMNY; and Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director at the Asian American Federation.

Jennifer Ching began by defining Asian-Black solidarity as acting out of an understanding that Black and Asian American history, current challenges, and futures are completely connected and interdependent. She cited the term “Asian American” as an example of this solidarity, as it was coined in the 1960s by Asian Americans who were inspired by the emerging Black Power Movement. She also acknowledged that solidarity can be deeply uncomfortable and involves the willingness to take risks and give up power. Jennifer Ching concluded by explaining the three M’s of solidarity: Mind, knowing the influence of Black Americans on the Asian American movement; Money, moving one’s money to Black communities to express solidarity; and Mobilization, taking action to change one’s practices and the practices of those around them.

Jo-Ann Yoo explained how the Asian American Federation shows solidarity towards other communities. The organization is fighting against COVID-19 based anti-Asian racism through bystander training, mental health sessions, and collaborating with other peoples of color in order to emphasize the need for solidarity with communities that have experienced similar racism. The Asian American Federation has also addressed the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on small businesses owned by people of color through active policy discussion with the Mayor’s office.

Jin Hee Lee discussed how anti-black racism within the Asian American community fueled by misguided acceptance of the model minority myth has perpetuated perceived Asian invisibility. She challenged the zero-sum mentality that pits communities of color against each other and called for Asians to rise above being exploited by conservatives seeking to combat affirmative action programs. By buying into the colorblind myth of meritocracy, Asian Americans have benefitted from the discrimination against Black and Latinx communities. However, with conversations regarding race becoming increasingly normalized, she hopes that this normalization can provide an opportunity for those within our community to “reevaluate their understanding of race and the structural support systems that uphold white supremacy.”

Jason Wu then discussed the intersectionality of Black liberation with other social movements and the necessity for allies to take a unified stance on the wider systemic issues that have marginalized different overlapping communities. By understanding that social prejudices and inequities are a product of ingrained, systemic issues, we can better understand the political and social structures that we work around and within that have perpetuated bias. In particular, with the Asian American and Black communities, the commonality between them is important in understanding the conflict felt by those of mixed Black and Asian heritage and the racialization of South Asians and Muslims in connection with immigration policy.

The panel concluded with a Q&A, most notably addressing the generational differences within the Asian American community that have fueled anti-Black racism. As Jennifer Ching states, it is necessary to build a “vocabulary of shared experiences” that acknowledges the personal trauma of older Asian Americans while shifting the conversation to the systemic racial inequities that have harmed the Asian American and other POC communities. The panel also answered questions regarding the role lawyers play in perpetuating biased power structures. While lawyers may operate within a legal system marred by racial prejudice, understanding the law is critical in recognizing and combating systemic racism. Only by recognizing injustices in the law can we rectify systemic issues embedded into our national identity and begin healthy conversations about race.

We would like to thank the panelists for taking the time to offer their thoughts and begin these difficult conversations and the AABANY LGBT Committee for organizing this event. If you wish to contribute to the fight against racial injustice, please contact John Vang at john.vang@aabany.org. To learn more about the struggles of the Black community for racial justice, take a look at AABANY’s Juneteenth blog for a list of relevant resources.

To view a recording of the discussion click here or on the screenshot above.

AABANY’s LGBT Committee Hosts a Roundtable Discussion On Negotiating The Experience of Being Both LGBT and Asian American

On March 5, 2019, the AABANY LGBT Committee held a roundtable discussion titled: “Transactional Identities: Navigating the various contexts of coming out for Asian American lawyers.”  

Presenting were Connie Montoya, Partner, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP; Janice Jabido, IP Counsel, Pratt & Whitney; and Tony Thomas, Chief Legal & Labor Relations Officer, City University of New York – Brooklyn College.  

Dennis M. Quinio, Manager of Diversity & Inclusion, Milbank, LLP, moderated the discussion.  

Our esteemed presenters jump-started the conversation, sharing their experiences being LGBT and Asian American within the legal profession, their families and their communities at large.  They discussed the struggles of being in the closet; the dynamics of coming out to colleagues, clients, and family members; and strategies for overcoming day-to-day challenges such as microaggressions. Several Asian American LGBT attorneys from private practice, government and the nonprofit sector attended the discussion and shared their experiences in this confidential space, meant to foster a candid and supportive dialogue. We heard about others’ experiences harmonizing identities that may seem to be in conflict and explored how living our “authentic” selves can impact our effectiveness at work.

The law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton graciously hosted the event. At the beginning of the roundtable, Sandra Flow, Partner and Chair of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion at Cleary, delivered warm welcoming remarks, affirming the firm’s commitment to supporting diverse attorneys.  

If you would like to join the AABANY LGBT Committee or learn more, email John Vang at jvang@cfal.org.  

Congratulations to Glenn Magpantay, Honoree at the Brooklyn Law School Public Service Awards Ceremony

On April 9, 2019, Brooklyn Law School Public Service Law Center will host the Public Service Awards Ceremony in Forchelli Conference Center, Feil Hall, where Glenn Magpantay will receive a Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Service in recognition for his outstanding contributions to public service.

Glenn Magpantay is the Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School. He has been organizing in the LGBT community for over 30 years, and he is recognized as a vanguard of LGBT rights activism. In addition to being an activist, Magpantay is also a devoted educator. He teaches “Race & the Law” at Brooklyn Law School and “Asian American Civil Rights” at Hunter College/ CUNY.

We at AABANY have been fortunate to have Glenn Magpantay as a former Board member and current co-chair of the LGBT Committee. Please join AABANY in congratulating Glenn Magpantay on this well-deserved award and honor.

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP Hosts AABANY LGBT Committee

On March 17, the AABANY LGBT Committee held Being Out and Asian Pacific Islander at Work at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. The discussion centered around personal experiences and how to deal with negative stereotypes and stigmas in the workplace. 

Thank you to all those who made the event possible, especially Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP for hosting. Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP shared on their Facebook page:

Thank
you to the AABANY LGBT Committee for allowing us to host “A Discussion
on Being Out and API at Work in the Legal Community” in our New York
office yesterday.

Attendees from law firms, in-house corporate
counsel, public interest organizations and government practices shared
their day-to-day experiences with interacting with others, and discussed
the challenges they face.

Obergefell v. Hodges:  A Victory For Asian Pacific Americans

By John Vang
AABANY LGBT Committee


The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges,  576 U.S. ___ (2015), was monumental.  Legally, Obergefell extended the fundamental right to marry, rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses, to same sex couples.  Socially, it powerfully affirmed same sex relationships and represented, for some, the culmination of a long movement for gay rights, and, for others, simply one step, albeit a significant one, in a continued struggle for full equality.  

For myself and other gay Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), our families, and communities, the decision’s impact is real. The Williams Institute estimates that 325,000 APA adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).  Nearly 33,000 APA persons are in same-sex relationships with over a quarter raising children.  The numbers are undoubtedly greater when accounting for those not reporting.  By recognizing same sex marriages, the Supreme Court ruling has dramatically transformed our communities and has also implicated matters that inhere in marriage, such as immigration, as nearly 20 percent of APA individuals in same-sex couples are non-citizens.

Compellingly, Obergefell conveys an important cultural message. I come from a conservative, Christian Asian American family. For such a family, strongly influenced by rule of law and authority, the decision in many ways, takes out of the debate the wrongness or rightness of same-sex relationships, as there can be no greater validation afforded than by that of the highest court of the land.  Of course, as a nation, the ruling remains contentious, as Americans, framing objections primarily in religious terms, remain divided on the issue. Within the APA community, responses to same-sex marriage have ranged from full acceptance (such as by the Japanese American’s Citizen’s League, the first non-LGBT national ethnic organization to take a stand in support of gay marriage) to outright hostility (such as Hak-Shing William Tan, a Chinese American evangelical supporter of California’s Proposition 8, notoriously warning that if same-sex marriage were to be treated as civil right, then so too would pedophilia, polygamy and incest).

Whatever the opinions, however, for APAs, the ruling elicits parallels between struggles for gay and APA rights. Obergefell drew from the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia, commonly understood as legalizing marriages between black and white persons.  But Loving also overturned anti-miscegenation laws that explicitly targeted APAs, a legacy of anti-Asian exclusion in the U.S.  Thus, Obergefell reinforces that, from exclusion and obscurity to inclusion and acceptance, the movement for APA rights is inseparable from that of LGBT rights.  

This landmark decision marks a new era, but we must continue to foster visibility, pride, and acceptance for LGBT Asian-Americans in our families, communities, and the nation at large.  Supporting organizations such as NQAPIA (National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance) doing groundbreaking work to assert APA LGBT visibility nationwide is critical in that regard.  

Moreover, we must strive for justice in the areas that continue to affect our communities, such as discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing, as well as pushing for immigration and criminal justice reform.  As the court poignantly put it:  “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”  As Asian Pacific Americans we applaud this decision and continue in the movement for full equality. 


This article was originally published in the Summer 2015, Volume XVI, Issue III of The AABANY Advocate, which can be read in its entirety here. To see all past versions of The AABANY Advocate, click here. To learn more about AABANY’s newsletter, you can email naf.kwun@aabany.org.

To learn more about AABANY’s LGBT Committee, click here. You can email Co-Chair Glenn Magpantay at glenn.magpantay@aabany.org.