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Monday, April 15, 2024

Korean-American Community drives signature campaign to safeguard their children

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Church members sign a petition to pass the California Child Protection Act after Sunday service at Grace Ministries International on February 11. [Courtesy of Mindy Shin]

A signature collection effort to qualify the California Child Protection Act for inclusion on the November 5 ballot is spreading rapidly in the Korean-American community.

In early February, the Korean-American church community launched the Southern California Signature Campaign for the California Child Protection Act.

“It’s about protecting the identity of our children, protecting the privacy of girls, and restoring parental rights,” said Sarah Kim, an advocate with the organization. “It’s about Korean-Americans stepping up to protect the next generation.”

If passed as a voter initiative in the November election, the California Child Protection Act would enact five major changes. It would mandate that public schools and universities designate restrooms, showers, and locker rooms separately for boys and girls based on gender. It would also ban boys who transition to women from participating in girls’ sports.

Additionally, it would require schools to notify parents before recommending that their children undergo gender reassignment or change their gender or name. Moreover, it would prohibit schools or medical institutions from recommending that children undergo gender reassignment, referring them to psychiatric counseling, or performing gender reassignment procedures without parental consent.

Lastly, it would prohibit local taxpayer dollars from being used for transgender healthcare for minors.

Currently, California law requires at least one gender-neutral restroom in public schools starting in 2026, allows counseling on gender identity to minors over the age of 12 without parental consent, requires sexual-minority training for public school staff, and allows for the creation of profiles of parents who do not accept sexual minority identities. It also penalizes school districts that ban textbooks with sexual-minority content.

The campaign, led by pastors from over 50 Korean churches in Los Angeles and Orange counties, reports that in the first month of the campaign, over 10,000 individuals have signed the petition, including 1,250 from Grace Korean Church, 850 from Sa-rang Community Church, and 600 from the Glory Church Jesus Christ.

Signature gathering for the California Child Protection Act petition at Sa-Rang Community Church. [Courtesy of Southern California Petition Campaign Headquarters]

In Southern California, the petition drive collaborates with church leaders and volunteers from multiple congregations to establish booths at Hannam Chain, Zion Market, The Source in Buena Park, and Hannam Chain in Torrance to collect signatures from Korean-Americans.

The signatures also come from mainstream churches and organizations, as well as politicians and athletes. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Committee to Protect Children, Assemblyman Bill Esailiga (R), Riley Gaines (swimmer), and Chloe Cole (activist) are among the many supporters of the petition.

“Recently, California has passed several laws that may adversely affect children, such as restricting parents’ rights to their children and allowing gender-neutral restrooms in public schools. We must stop this. There is no place to back down,” said Rev. SoonYoung Kang of the Southern California Petition Campaign Headquarters. “The petition drive is scheduled to run until April 13, so we’re encouraging Korean-Americans to actively participate.”

“We are currently in talks with Korean-American Catholic, Latino, Chinese, and Vietnamese religious organizations,” said Rev. Kang, “as well as Korean-American churches in Northern California and San Diego.”

The petition requires a total of 550,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Still, the aim is to collect 700,000 signatures, as the state government weeds out invalid signatures in the process of counting valid signatures. The campaign is hoping to secure 100,000 signatures from the Korean-American community.

This is the first time since 2008 that the Korean-American church community has organized a petition drive. Back in 2008, the California state passed Proposition 8, which aimed to block the legalization of same-sex marriage and recognize only traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

The mainstream church community led the campaign, but in the closing days leading up to the election, the Korean-American community began to take action with full-frontal campaigning. The mainstream media began to notice, and Prop 8 was narrowly passed.

*(Same-sex marriage has been legal in California since June 28, 2013. In 2010, a landmark lawsuit overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage. In 2013, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal in Hollingsworth v. Perry, which reinstated the trial court ruling that invalidated Proposition 8. Proposition 8 was a voter-approved initiative that banned the state from recognizing same-sex marriages in 2008.)

The fact that the Korean-American community has come to the forefront again this time shows how urgent the situation is.

“The future of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren is at stake, and I hope the church community, in particular, will recognize the seriousness of this issue and get involved,” said Mindy Shin, 42, of Mama Bear, a grassroots organization for Korean-American parental rights in Orange County. “California is becoming a bleak place to raise children, and as parents, we can no longer ignore the situation.”

By Mooyoung Lee   lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com