Category Archives: Hawai’i

Hawaii Becomes 15th State to Embrace Marriage Equality

On Tuesday, November 13, Hawaii’s State Senate put its final approval on the marriage equality bill. The Senate passed the bill 19-4, and it awaits the Governor’s signature, expected today.

In the many days of debate in the Hawaii House, I was particularly moved by House Member, Representative Kaniela Ing:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of Senate Bill 1, relating to equal rights.

 Thank you, a couple days ago I spoke to young mainstream Christians, today I have a broader message.  In 1998, my parents voted on a constitutional amendment to “reserve marriage between one woman and one man.”

 I remember commercials: vote “yes” for “traditional marriage,” our family liked that one, and vote “no” on the constitutional amendment, that one was bad.

 You see, like most 9 year olds, morality was a very black and white concept–there’s right, and then there’s wrong.  I carried a due north/ due south moral compass oriented primarily on what my incredibly loving parents, hi mom, taught me.  And they along with my church taught me gay was bad.

 But in October 1998, a few weeks before that vote, something happened that shook and recalibrated my young conscience.  Matthew Shepard, a gay teenager going to college in Wyoming, was inhumanely tortured and murdered by straight classmates–a hate crime that made national news.  He was tied to a fence, and beat with a pistol and left to bleed to death.

 I remember discussing this with a friend of mine from church, and my friend said, “Good for him, God says he is evil.”  But I knew, in my young heart, that no one deserved that kind of brutality, no one.  This is where my convictions began.

 You see, if we want to understand the gay rights issue, we need to understand the LGBT experience.

 Many of us just can’t grasp what it would be like.  Until college, like many of the testifiers here, I thought being gay was a lifestyle choice that went against nature.  But when you actually hear from the LGBT community, as we have witnessed, it is clearly not a choice.

 In fact, many gay people who testified last week, proclaimed that as teenagers, they fought who they are, and tried to force themselves straight.  Many faced self-loathing and torment because of this, and thank God that unlike the thousands of gay teenagers that take their own lives every year, these brave people persevered, and they were able to be here today– in front of an less-than-friendly crowd–to stand up like champions for equal rights for all.

 For those opponents who say this isn’t about civil rights, I challenge you to tell that with a clear conscience to Alan Spector, who had the love of his life deported back to South America because his post-doctoral research funding expired.

 I challenge you to tell that to Kimberly Allen, who was not allowed to see her life-partner in the hospital during the last hours of her life,

 I challenge you to tell that Tambry Young who had to reconsider adoption and delay forming the family she desires because of the costs without the rights and benefits of marriage

 …tell that to Bart Zobel, a soldier fighting for his freedom who was called a flaming homo mistake by a rank-and-file superior,

 …tell that to Jeremy White who slipped into depression trying to force or pray himself straight…

 …I challenge you to tell the parents of Matthew Shepard, that the suffering and tragic death that their own son that they experienced is not sufficient to call this is civil rights issue.

 Tell these people hold on until the majority is ready. Tell them they must continue to suffer inequality and hate, because other people are not ready to grant them full equality.  Can you do that with a clear conscience?

 Some testifiers have spoken about this bill ushering in an onslaught of the gay lifestyle.  And they challenged your committee members, Mr. Speaker, would you wish homosexuality upon your own kids?

 So I really thought about this.

 …If the gay lifestyle they speak of pertains to the highly successful physicians, attorneys, economists, the world renowned microbiologists and psychologists that we’ve seen testify.

 …If this gay lifestyle is the inspiringly committed couples who have been together for decades, yet are still viewed as strangers in the eyes of their government.

 …If this gay lifestyle is boldly standing up in the face of hate to fight for equal rights for all

 …If that’s what the gay agenda will bring…If that’s how gay children will be like.  Then hey, sign me up.  I’ll take three.

 And please don’t write scripts for your kids to tell me children need a mother and a father in order to be raised right—when my father passed away when I was a young child, and just like our junior U.S. Senator, and just like our Hawaii-born president of the united states, I come from a single parent home.  Don’t tell me that I, and my brothers and sisters who are exceling in sports, academics, and art—that we are any lesser than your child.

 Especially in Hawaii, where hanai adoption is enshrined in tradition, where multi-generation families are valued as much as our kupuna are, and where diversity is the hallmark of our aloha spirit.   We need to embrace empirical evidence stating that the nuclear family is no better off than other familial structures.  Our children need to continue to learn that in Hawaii, we’re all equals, no matter your sexual orientation, and no matter how your family is structured.

 You see, I live in Kihei, with one of the largest gay populations in the State and with a majority of my constituents in support, but for my colleagues who have the majority in their districts in opposition, let me leave you with this.

 In high school, my friends just like most kids in high school, we used gay as an insult, or as the great Philosopher Mackelmore said, “As synonymous with the lesser.” We hurled it at each other to make fun of each other, one day a gay classmate of mine was walking to band class, he tripped and he dropped a glass jar that was full of colorful paper stars, my friends started laughing at him. I felt bad, so I went over there and helped him, and that didn’t make me very cool, as a matter of fact every time we walked by that guy later on, my friends would say “hey there goes your boyfriend.” But, I did it not because it was the popular thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. Standing up for this individual did not make me popular, but it was the right thing to do.

 Just because the numerical majority is in one place, it does not mean they are in the right place.  We are in a position right now, that we must lead our state to the right place.  Sometimes the right thing to do, goes against the popular thing to do.

 While I cannot take back my parents 1998 vote back, the people placed me in a position where I can help correct an injustice here in Hawaii. And I am prepared to face the consequences of my vote. To me this bill is about love and acceptance, in Hawaii we call that Aloha. One person in the audience stated that it’s the wrong love, I don’t agree, again I agree with Macklemore, “It’s the same love.” I have one last question, how many more gay people must God create until we realize that he wants them here? How many more gay people must God create until we realize that he wants them here?

 Mr Speaker, let the people decide…who they marry

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

Faith Ally Speaks Out on Religion and Government

The LGBT civil rights movement in Hawaii has constantly been blocked by Christian evangelicals and the Catholic Church. This unholy alliance that prevents LGBT people from full citizenship is being unmasked by courageous faith leaders who take the risk of speaking truth to power in this small island community.

In a culture where “the nail that stands out, gets pounded down” we still have brave leaders like retired Lutheran minister the Rev. Jory Watland. His letter appeared in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on March 30, 2010. Thank you Rev. Watland!

Keep religion out of politics

It was very upsetting to see the article by Richard Borreca headlined “Broadcaster Robertson speaks highly of Duke Aiona on ’700 Club’” (Star-Bulletin, March 21). I was very disappointed to see Mr. Borreca give credence to any of the content of a talk show, to treat the content of the show as newsworthy, and to interview and elicit from local community members comments that in some cases were as offensive as the quotes from Robertson.

Our Hawaiian community has not used personal religious beliefs as a political campaign tool out of respect for, and celebration of, our diverse cultures and beliefs, and the respect for the privacy of each individual. For Mr. Borreca to report on what has become antithetical to our local culture as a newsworthy story is sad.

It is even more disturbing to have Dennis Arakaki, a former public official (and long-time friend), suggest that if a person is a Christian he/she will be prone to vote for a particular candidate for governor.

As a Christian minister, serving in Hawaii for over40 years, I find this perspective abhorrent and contrary to everything I value in a state and nation that constitutionally mandate the separation of church and state. Hawaii has fought to ensure the integrity of all by preserving the constitutional mandate against the “establishment” of a state religion.

Jory Watland
Honolulu