The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, consisting of 36 Buddhist temples statewide, unanimously passed a resolution in February supporting gay rights and are planning related public forums.I am so proud to have such a large organization with such deep history—in America’s most Asian state—affirm its support for gay rights. This support isn’t just limited to Buddhists in Hawai‘i. If you dip into the online database of contributors both supporting and opposing Proposition 8, you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of Vietnamese Americans (well, at least of people with Vietnamese surnames like Nguyen, Tran and Pham) donated to organizations that support gay rights. And this support spans generations. As the Honolulu Star-Advertiser goes on to note…
“We wanted to say, ‘Hey, we’re here, too.’ We had never taken a stance before,” said Blayne Higa, chairman of the Honpa's Social Concerns Committee. The group wants to add an Asian and Buddhist perspective to GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons) issues through its forums, Higa said.
In a March news release, Honpa Hongwanji President Alton Miyamoto said, “We want to share our Buddhist values of universal compassion, equality and interdependence with the larger community. We believe this issue is a matter of civil rights. We affirm the human dignity and worth of all people and that everyone deserves equal treatment within our society.”
“It’s funny, our older members were some of the biggest champions (of the resolution). The really older members remembered a time when Japanese-Americans were discriminated against or interned during the war. For them it really was a no-brainer, it was really just common sense,” Higa said.
To be fair—not every Asian Buddhist feels this way. There is discrimination and bigotry within the Asian American community, and I wouldn’t want this post to suggest that gay Asian Americans don’t face serious issues in the community. They do. But even so, there are also organizations like the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i who are happy to open their doors and affirm their support for equality.
Update: See in the comments, the Buddhist Churches of America’s 2004 same-sex resolution, where they “affirm the worthiness of all persons independent of sexual orientation” and “oppose any governmental prohibition of same-sex marriage.”