Category Archives: civil unions

Gov. Abercrombie: Democrats Make A Difference

Pat Gozemba

On February 23rd, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) signed the civil unions bill for his state. Karen Kahn and I, who are married in Massachusetts, now feel as if we can move to Hawai’i one day and be protected with the same rights and benefits as all other married couples in Hawai’i.

“For me, this bill represents equal rights for everyone in Hawaii–everyone who comes here,” Abercrombie said. “This is, to me, the essence of the aloha spirit.”

Intelligent Impassioned Catholic Voice for LGBT Equality

Pat Gozemba
Would like you all to check out the FreeCatholic808 blog of my friend and ally, Dawn Webster. Here is one of her recent blogs on a “local girl,” Connie Florez–a long time LGBT activist.

Let Love Prevail

February 9, 2011

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. John 1:4-8

Connie Florez, Director/Producer and supporter of civil unions in Hawaii

Connie Florez is the founder and CEO of Hula Girl Productions and the director/producer of several award-winning films that perpetuate the stories of the past through the digital technology of the present. http://www.hulagirlproductions.com/

Yesterday she told her own story in under two minutes, in person. The cameras in the State Capitol auditorium were trained on her as she stood at the podium to testify in front of the Hawaii House Judiciary Committee in support of civil unions legislation.

She spoke with love and pride about the diversity of her inclusive extended family, of growing up in Hilo and going to St.Joseph’s.

Connie & siblings after church: memories of a Catholic childhood

She spoke of her gay brother, his long committed relationship with his partner and their four successful children, three college-educated, one in the military.

She spoke of being an Aunty to 26 nieces and nephews.

She spoke of family gatherings where all were welcome, whatever their ethnic heritage or their sexual orientation.

She spoke of how she and her sister cared for their mother in her final years before she died.

A Hilo family where all are welcome.

Her voice was heard in an auditorium where other voices were also raised by those who would perpetuate the past by preserving old prejudices and sustaining old inequalities.

To those who would deny LGBT families equal rights under the law, Connie said: “Let love prevail. “

Bill Corona Florez and Genevieve Florez, parents of Connie

She spoke of the Catholic values she was raised with, many of which she still holds dear. But holding up her mother’s wedding ring, she said: “My mother also hoped I would someday be able to use this. To have what she had had.”

In supporting civil unions in Hawaii, Connie Florez asked for nothing more than what anyone hopes for: “To love the one you are with.”

Hawaii legislators appear ready to listen to what she and other advocates had to say. The civil unions bill has passed its second reading in the Hawaii House of Representatives and has been tabled for a third reading, expected this Friday.

See the great photos for this article and check out other posts on: FreeCatholic808

MA Lessons for Hawai’i Civil Unions Struggle

by Pat Gozemba
Testimony that I submitted to the Hawai’i House Judiciary Committee for its Feb. 8, 2011 hearing:

Civil Unions in Hawai’i
Understanding the Massachusetts Experience

To: Members of the House and Senate, Hawai’i State Legislature, considering civil unions legislation (SB 232, SB 231, HB 1244, and HB 1453)

From: Patricia A. Gozemba, co-author of Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages (Beacon Press, 2007)

Re: FIVE TRUTHS BASED ON THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
Getting Beyond the Mistruths in “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” (2008) by Brian Camenker of MassResistance

Date: February 7, 2011
I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the manner in which Senator Clayton Hee conducted the Senate Judiciary Hearing on SB 232 on January 25, 2011. Throughout the hearing, however, one senator on the Judiciary Committee and several members of the public quoted, without citing, “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” (2008).

I am a part-time resident of Hawai’i and permanent resident of Massachusetts, as well as a researcher and writer on issues of concern to our LGBT community. I know first-hand the distortion of reality by Brian Camenker in relation to the book, Courting Equality that my spouse, Karen Kahn and I co-authored.

His Massachusetts-based group Mass Resistance has been cited for the past four years as an Anti-Gay Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog of hate groups in the US.

In Massachusetts, Brian Camenker’s work is generally regarded as not worth addressing seriously because it is so fraught with purposeful distortions. But given its emergence again in Hawai’i at this critical moment of the consideration of several bills addressing civil unions, I want to give you a sense of the egregiousness of some of Camenker’s misinformation. To that end, I highlight just five truths that are lost in the many deliberate “mistruths” of Camenker’s “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts.”

Karen and I were married in MA in 2005. Like the nearly 19,000 married same-sex couples in our state, we are grateful to have been able to marry and to enjoy the same rights, benefits, and family protections as all other citizens of the Commonwealth. We wish the same for other LGBT couples in Hawai’i.

As you consider Civil Unions Legislation in Hawai’i, you may find this helpful.

Five Truths based on the Massachusetts Experience

1. It will NOT force any school or any teacher to teach about marriage or homosexuality

2. Books about the struggle for same sex marriage were NOT distributed at taxpayer expense to schools
3. Rates of HIV/AIDS have dropped since same-sex marriage became legal.
4. Domestic violence occurs among people in same-sex relationships at similar rates to people in heterosexual relationships.
5. The legalization of same-sex marriage has had NO EFFECT on the level of funding for programs to combat homophobia and provide respite and support for youth who may or may not be gay, but who may be subject to bullying

TRUTH #1

The First Circuit’s ruling in the Parker v. Hurley case DID NOT mandate the teaching of any subject or course material, nor did it say that the school had any duty to teach about marriage or any other subject. Rather, in response to the claims by Robert and Robin Wirthlin and David and Tonia Parker of Lexington, MA that their free exercise rights had been violated, the Court found that “the mere fact that a child is exposed on occasion in public school to a concept offensive to a parent’s religious belief does not inhibit the parent from instructing the child differently.” Overall, the decision found that including a few books with depictions of same-sex couples in the curriculum did not violate the constitutional rights of students or parents – NOT that those books must be included or taught. (Source: Nima Eshgsi, Esq. of Gay, Lesbian, Advocates and Defenders).

Brian Camenker’s assertions to the contrary do not make them true.

TRUTH # 2

Courting Equality tells the story of how LGBT people and their allies across the state used the democratic political process to expand civil rights for LGBT people. The donors thought this book would inspire teenagers to become active participants in democracy. They “offered” the book as a gift, and no high school GSA or library was forced to accept it.

Locally, Dawn Morais Webster wrote about Courting Equality in “Seeing Is Believing for LGBT Family and Friends,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Jan. 31, 2011.

Camenker’s statement that “homosexual groups have been using taxpayer money to distribute a large, slick hardcover book celebrating homosexual marriage titled “Courting Equality” to every school library in the state” is a lie. He demonstrated as much when he reported on Sept. 27, 2007, to his own listserv that Chip McLaughlin and Keith Maynard donated private funds to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for distribution of Courting Equality (Beacon Press, 2007), to Gay/Straight Alliances (GSA) in MA public high schools and to the libraries of high schools that do not have GSAs.

TRUTH # 3
Rates of HIV/AIDS have NOT gone up since same-sex marriage became legal.
In fact, the number of new HIV cases has dropped by more than 25 percent over the past six years, the decrease accelerating since the implementation of same-sex marriage. Additional funding was available at the beginning of FY09 to address the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS in communities of color. However, since then, given current budget crises, funding for HIV/AIDS has declined by $1.75M. (Source: Kevin Cranston, Director, Bureau of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts Department of Public Health).

Again, Camenker lies when he says that “Since homosexual marriage became ‘legal’ the rates of HIV / AIDS have gone up considerably in Massachusetts. This year public funding to deal with HIV/AIDS has risen by $500,000.”

TRUTH # 4
Domestic violence occurs among people in same-sex relationships at similar rates to people in heterosexual relationships. However, many domestic violence programs are unable to work effectively with same-sex victims of domestic violence because they lack adequate training—thus, the state’s interest in providing funding. The legalizing of same-sex marriage has had no detectable effect on rates of same-sex domestic violence. (Source: Carlene Pavlos, Director, Division of Violence and Injury Prevention, Massachusetts Department of Public Health.)

Camenker offers this lie on the subject: “Given the extreme dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships, the Massachusetts Legislature has felt the need to spend more money every year to deal with skyrocketing homosexual domestic violence. This year $350,000 was budgeted, up $100,000 from last year.”

TRUTH # 5
The legalization of same-sex marriage has had NO EFFECT on the level of funding for efforts to combat homophobia by supporting programs such as Gay-Straight Alliances and Safe Spaces for LGBT Youth. These programs, which began in the early 1990s long before same-sex marriage became legal, provide respite and support for youth who may or may not be gay, but who may be subject to slurs and hate speech from their peers or sometimes hateful adults.

Camenker, however, asserts: “Since homosexual relationships are now officially ‘normal,’ the Legislature now gives enormous tax money to homosexual activist groups. “ Not true.
Additional General Information about Anti-Gay Hate Groups and Their Message
The hateful portrayal of LGBT people promoted by Brian Camenker through his organization Mass Resistance.org has been rebutted by LGBT organizations and mainstream, predominantly heterosexual, organizations ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU.

In their Intelligence Report (Winter 2010), the Southern Poverty Law Center published an article by Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback, “10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked,” which lays bare the specious arguments promoted by anti-gay hate groups including Mass Resistance. Hateful messages hurt us all. Let’s speak truth to hate.

Sources
Southern Poverty Law Center

Brian Camenker

GLAD


Dawn Morais Webster

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

“10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked”

Patricia A. Gozemba
http://www.courtingequality.com

Lesbian Nominated to Hawaii Supreme Court

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie nominated Hawaii’s Chief Family Court Judge, Sabrina McKenna, for an open seat on the Hawaii Supreme Court. McKenna, well-known in the 1970s as a University of Hawaii basketball star has accomplished an equally stellar record in the courts of the judiciary. What’s powerful to me is that McKenna has busted open the doors of Hawaii’s huge closet filled with LGBT people from all walks of life and demonstrated that we can be at the top reaches of society and be open about who we are–whole people, adults.

Judge Sabrina McKenna and Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The religious right continues to try to demonize LGBT people, noting that we do not lead full lives as they do. When more LGBT people in Hawaii step out of the shadows the myth can begin to be dispelled.

DADT Opportunity Knocks

It will take some pushing but with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, LGBT rights activists have a golden opportunity to expand our struggle for equality. Specifically, I’m concerned about how married LGBT couples will access all of the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples.

Will LGBT service members stationed in Massachusetts or any or the other 5 states or the District of Columbia be able to marry and have that marriage recognized by the military. I’m hoping.

As some folks here in Hawaii continue to push in the legislature for civil unions (newly elected Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he’ll sign the bill immediately) the prospect of revolutionizing all of the military bases here is in the offing.

In all of this struggle, I really have been so impressed by Lt. Dan Choi and I was delighted to see that he was invited to the White House signing of the repeal. Heard on the coconut wireless that he asked Obama to walk him down the aisle. Now there’s a Kodak moment in the offing.

Check out Sen. Harry Reid returning Choi’s West Point ring. Guess Reid won’t be the hubby.

Lt. Dan Choi gets his West Point ring back from Sen. Harry Reid

A Senate Hero in White: “I Vote for Love”

Pat Gozemba

On January 22nd, when opponents of civil unions wore white to the Hawai’i State Capitol to symbolize their opposition to our civil rights, a brave senator also wore white.

King.KidaniSuzanne King of Equality Hawai’i (l) and Senator Michele Kidani (D)

Senator Kidani took the brave step of introducing an important amendment to HB444 that ultimately failed 10-15. But she was back leading the charge when the unamended bill was brought up in Third Reading.

Many senators had poignant arguments to make for HB444 but the one that resonated most with me was Kidani’s:

“To deny our gay brothers and sisters their rights is unjust. I vote for love. Give love a chance.”

Senator Kidani gets it. What we are looking for is relationship recognition, but at the core of that recognition is the love that we have for our chosen partner. Fundamentalist Christians and particularly Catholics want to talk about sex (in their code words “complementarity”) but we need to speak out more loudly about love.

In her great looking white suit, Kidani spoke for love. No one else in white on either the Senate floor or the Senate gallery spoke of love. But the Senate did vote for love 18-7–a super majority.

Love is where it’s at.

Equality Time Warp in Hawai’i

Pat Gozemba

Yesterday at the Hawai’i State Capitol we celebrated a Senate vote of 18-7 in favor of civil unions. There is some irony in the celebration because in 1993 Justice Steven Levinson, writing for the majority, ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that same-sex couples should not be denied marriage equality.

But yesterday, 16 years later, I found myself with Justice Levinson and hundreds of others celebrating the first step of achieving relationship equality in Hawai’i: passing a civil unions bill out of the Hawai’i state senate.

Levinson.20100123_nws_gay2

Supporters of the civil unions bill — including Pat Gozemba, left, and retired state Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson — celebrated yesterday. In 1993, Levinson co-authored the decision saying that Hawaii needed a “compelling state interest” for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Photo by Dennis Oda of The Star Bulletin.

How did Hawai’i get itself in this time warp? A constitutional ballot amendment in 1998 gave the legislature the authority to determine what marriage is. The legislature chose the discriminatory route: one man and one woman.

But the legislature did not take the ultimately discriminatory route and institutionalize marriage inequality in the state constitution through a constitutional convention.

The Hawai’i House of Representatives will now take up the civil unions bill. Marriage equality, a glimmer of hope in 1993, seems so remote.