GLENDALE — The Republic of Armenia has awarded Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) the Mkhitar Gosh Medal in recognition of his contributions to strengthening U.S.-Armenia relations and many years of dedicated service on behalf of the Armenian-American community. The President of Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian, announced the award, which is named in honor of the noted twelfth century Armenian clergyman, writer, and codifier of the Armenian civil and canon laws, in a statement released yesterday.

“Pursuant to paragraph 16, article 55 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, and guided by the Law of the Republic of Armenia on State Awards, I hereby decree: To award Mike Gatto, California State Assemblymember, the Mkhitar Gosh Medal for his contribution in strengthening and developing the Armenia-U.S. friendly relations and many years of dedication to Armenian issues.” said President Sarkisian.

“I am so grateful to the people of Armenia for this honor,” said Gatto. “People of Armenian decent have worked hard to help make California’s economy, culture, and intellectual capacity thrive. By working together and building new partnerships, we can strengthen the relationship between these two great states and ensure a more prosperous future for everyone.”

Assemblyman Gatto has been a tireless advocate for Armenian issues such as the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the death of more than 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. He has authored or co-authored ten different bills recognizing the Armenian Genocide, requesting proper inclusion of the genocide in high school-history curriculum, and calling on the Congress and the President of the United States to do the same. Among them is AB 173 (2011), which allows the families of victims of the Armenian Genocide to file claims in California on insurance policies issued during the genocide, helping Armenian Americans achieve justice for their relatives.

This year, Gatto took bold action on behalf of the ethnically Armenian people of Artsakh, a region in the Southern Caucasus that was illegally severed from Armenia and placed under Soviet-Azerbaijani control in 1921. Seventy years later, the people of Artsakh held democratic elections and formally declared independence as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Assemblyman Mike Gatto authored AJR 32, which made California the most populous entity in the world to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and called upon the United States government to do the same. After successfully passing the State legislature, AJR 32 was transmitted to Congress and President Obama.

“It is a privilege to advocate on behalf of the U.S.-Armenia relationship and to work so closely with leaders in the Armenian-American community. I have always believed that all people have the right to safety and self-determination. These rights must be protected, and the legacy of those killed in the centuries-old oppression of Armenian peoples must not be forgotten.”

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