Lance Toma’s Speech, as given at the Asian & Allies
Rally for Marriage Equality Event on August 8, 2004.
What a BEAUTIFUL DAY. I’m Lance Toma and I am deputy
director at Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center.
We’ve just past our 17th year anniversary in the HIV/AIDS
movement for Asian & Pacific Islanders. The organization
experienced a marriage of sorts in 1997, when the GAPA Community
HIV Project, GCHIP, merged and married Asian AIDS Project
to become what is now Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness
A HUGE THANK YOU to GAPA for your tremendous leadership and
for making this event happen today.
Another huge thank you to my co-worker and friend, TITA AIDA.
I also want to acknowledge and thank my partner and spouse,
Erik Webb. We got married on February 16, with our 11-year-old
son Reggie. He is not here today because he is with his grandparents
in New York. I want to thank him also. Not only did Reggie
stand with us through 6 hours of rain, wait with us in countless
lines, and ultimately bear witness to the marriage vows that
Erik and I exchanged. He got to sign our marriage license…
And, the following day, Reggie of his own free will announced
to his classmates and teachers about his two dads getting
married. In his excitement, our 11-year-old child took risks
with his peers and school community, with pride.
That day we got married was a truly beautiful, glorious day…
the kind of day where society treats and celebrates everyone
As an Okinawan American, as a gay man, as a community member
and activist, fighting for social justice, … I understand
deeply the silence around these issues in our A&PI communities
and the gross injustices that get perpetuated because of this
Another group of A&PIs came together for what they believe
in, here in this park in April. And, they definitely were
That was about free speech and I get that.
Because of that demonstration, we stand here together today.
And, how proud am I to stand alongside all of you in this
powerful movement. Let us move same-sex marriage forward.
Let’s work together to change our own cultural norms.
Let’s talk about this thing called same-sex marriage.
Let’s talk about our lesbian gay bisexual and transgender
sisters and brothers and daughters and sons, aunties and uncles
and nieces and nephews.
Let’s talk about how important it is for all of us
to foster healthy relationships – whether we’re
queer or straight. That’s what’s important.
I am also SO PROUD of all our heterosexual allies. Can we
have a hand for the risks that our straight sisters and brothers
have taken by joining us today? We appreciate and need you
in this fight for justice for all of us.
My work — our work — is about breaking the silence
and fighting this stigma. As our Black lesbian poet sister,
Audre Lorde, reminds us: Our silence will not protect us.
The stigma around sexuality in our families, is one of our
After I got married, I experienced societal privilege that
was SO WEIRD for me. What blew me away the most was how my
and Erik’s families of origin embraced us. Marriage
allowed them a way to understand and validate our relationship.
This somehow gave them permission to talk to our extended
families and friends all over the country about us getting
married. For me, most of my family lives in Hawai’i…
AND, Hawai’i is a small place and we know that word
like this will get around the island! We used to call it the
coconut wireless… but now with the internet FOR SURE
everyone would know. My family, my ohana, in Hawai’i
broke silence, my ohana in Hawai’i fought stigma. My
ohana in Hawai’i took risks! My parents were the ones
breaking the silence and I love them dearly for that.
My Mother and Father planned a small reception for Erik,
Reggie and me when we visited them in Hawaii. The irony was
that no one talked about the marriage during our family wedding
luau, even though the cake that my mom ordered was in the
middle of the room, literally screaming… it said CONGRATULATIONS!
But all important things take time.
At this time it is more important than ever to VOICE where
we stand; we need to DIALOGUE with our families and friends
about the injustices we as a community are experiencing.
What I know is that our communities know about discrimination.
We know in our bones about being excluded and about our history
of restricted freedoms as immigrants. What I know in my heart
is that we will win. With this energy and momentum, with ALL
OF US, we will win.
We must continue to move forward. Same-sex marriage is only
one step in our fight.
We must support our elected leaders. Thank you Mabel Teng,
Thank you Mayor Newsom, Thank you Assemblyman Mark Leno, Thank
you Assemblyman Leland Yee. You have taken risks that will
continue to build momentum for all of us – all the way
to Washington DC in November!
This November’s election is SO IMPORTANT.
As a newlywed, I’m NOT registered at Macy*s BUT I am
registered to vote. If you are eligible, please everyone here,
VOTE. Go home, talk to your brothers and sisters and parents
and grandparents and get them to VOTE too.
For this to work, we must all take risks. Let’s make
this happen! Thank you everyone! Mahalo & Aloha!
Co-sponsored by A&PI Wellness Center on August 8, 2004,
at Larsen Park in San Francisco.