Glenn Magpantay has spent his life advocating for LGBTQ+ Asians and Pacific Islanders to have a seat at the table. Now, Magpantay himself is sitting in one of the most powerful chairs there is. The civil rights lawyer and former executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance was recently appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a federal agency guiding Congress and the White House on civil rights laws and policy. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Magpantay’s appointment earlier this year and he was sworn in by the Commission’s director, Mauro Morales. Taking time from his packed schedule — he’s also a professor of Asian American Studies at New York City’s Hunter College — Magpantay explained his work at the commission and what he plans to accomplish.
Tell us what your role will entail and what you look forward to tackling.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan federal agency to advise Congress and The White House on the enforcement of federal civil rights laws and development of national civil rights policy. It’s an enormous honor to serve my country. I look forward to systematically assessing the state of civil rights enforcement in the United States and advising Congress and the president on national civil rights policy, especially as it concerns underserved communities such as ours.
Fighting for LGBTQ+ API rights was your mission for so long. While your new position is an extension of that work, will you miss not being able to focus solely on this segment of the community?
Being on the commission is a new opportunity to raise Asian American issues at the intersection of queerness on the federal level. As the first openly LGBTQ Asian American on the Commission since it was founded in 1957, I will continue to represent my community. We’ve been overlooked too long.
Are you feeling optimistic about the state of civil rights now?
That question is a challenge. Our country has yet to ensure the promise of civil rights for everyone. I am excited that the commission’s next investigation is on the federal response to anti-Asian racism in the United States. The state of our civil rights now is in flux — while that may not sound good, [it] requires fighting for our rights. It’s also a unique moment, an opportunity to work to advance civil rights for all. That’s our task.