Gardner, Hirono Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Award Fred Korematsu the Congressional Gold Medal

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined by colleagues in both chambers, introduced bipartisan legislation to award Fred Korematsu the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his fight against the illegal incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and his work to advance civil rights. 


“Japanese internment is a stain on our nation’s history, and the Korematsu v. United States decision was a setback for racial equality and a rejection of our Constitutional values. Fred Korematsu fought against this discrimination despite the consequences and his legacy of courage serves as an example for all Americans,”said Senator Gardner. “I’m proud to join in introducing legislation to posthumously award Korematsu the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian award. His fight to promote equal protection under the law for every American underscores fundamental values of our nation: freedom, equality, security, and justice.”


“Fred Korematsu stood up for the rights of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, and continued his fight for decades to expand civil rights and overturn his own false criminal conviction,” Senator Hirono said. “Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor, to Fred Korematsu is a fitting tribute to his lifelong pursuit of justice and equality.”


“My father, Fred T. Korematsu, was born in Oakland, California 100 years ago today. A civil rights pioneer, he dedicated his life to ‘stand up for what is right,’ and he worked to ensure what happened to him and other Japanese Americans will never happen again to any other minority group,” said Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and daughter of Fred Korematsu. “I thank Senators Hirono, Murkowski, Coons, and Gardner, and Congressman Takano for their introduction of the Fred Korematsu Congressional Gold Medal Act. Through this bill, it is a reminder that we must Stop Repeating History and, like my father, continue to champion civil liberties and the Constitution for all.”


“NAPABA is proud to honor the legacy of Fred Korematsu on his 100th birthday and encourages Congress to recognize him with a Congressional Gold Medal,” National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) President Daniel Sakaguchi said. “This bill is a reminder of his important place in history and that we continue to learn from his legacy, a commitment to civil rights and justice for all. We thank Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Chris Coons, Senator Cory Gardner, and Representative Mark Takano for leading this bipartisan effort.”


In 1942, at the age of 23, Fred Korematsu was arrested for refusing to enter the internment camps for Japanese Americans. After his arrest, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld Executive Order 9066 based on military necessity. After 40 years, on November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s criminal conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco. Korematsu remained a civil rights advocate throughout his life and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. He passed away on March 30, 2005 at the age of 86.


Throughout his career, Senator Gardner has passionately spoken out against the Japanese internment camps of WWII, including Camp Amache located in Southeastern Colorado. In 2016, the Senator spoke on the Senate floor to read a speech written in the 1940s by Marion Konishi, the valedictorian of an Amache high school class during the war. In 2017, the Senator visited the camp site and participated in the Annual Amache Pilgrimage, and in 2018 he introduced legislation to begin the process of making it a national park.