Category Archives: civil unions

Hawaii’s community leaders speak up for civil unions

With the legislative session half over, Hawaii’s civil unions bill, HB444 HD1, is still stuck in the Senate Judiciary Commitee, where a 3-3 split vote prevented the bill from moving to the floor. All that is needed is for 9 of the 25 sentators to vote to pull the bill from committee, but the pressure from the opposition seems to be weakening support. A move toward “compromise” has angered supporters, who believe that now is the time to grant same-sex couples all the rights, benefits and responsibilities afforded heterosexual spouses.

To reinforce the message that people across the islands believe in equality, Unite Here Local 5 hosted a press conference on March 18 showcasing community leaders in favor of civil unions. The group of leaders, which included native Hawaiians, civil rights advocates from the Japanese, Filipino, African-American communities, and labor leaders, issued the following joint statement:

Dear Senators:

In 1998, Hawai‘i voted to grant our state legislators “the power to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples.” However, this did not obviate the Legislature’s obligation under the constitution to provide equal protection to all of Hawai‘i’s citizens.

Now, more than a decade later, you have before you an historic opportunity to extend equality to same-sex couples and their families. HB 444 HD1 has already passed the House with overwhelming support. It is now up to you.

As leaders of diverse communities across the islands, we call on you to bring the Civil Unions bill to the floor for passage. We believe:

• This is a civil rights issue. Married couples in Hawai‘i, and their children, have access to an extensive package of rights, benefits, and responsibilities. Same-sex couples have very limited access to these same rights and benefits, though they fully participate in our communities, pay taxes, support their children, care for their elders and carry out all the same obligations as other families in our communities. Civil unions would provide equality under State law, as guaranteed by the Hawai‘i State Constitution.

• This is an issue of economic justice. In these times of extreme economic vulnerability for all of Hawai‘i’s families, civil unions would provide greater economic stability for families currently excluded from the State’s marriage laws. As an example, same-sex couples are unable to benefit from joint tax filings and must spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on legal documents, only to obtain a small fraction of the protections afforded to married couples. Civil unions would provide equal and fair treatment for all of Hawai‘i’s families.

• This is about ‘ohana. Across our islands, our most important deeply held values are about ‘ohana and malama, supporting and caring for our families and communities. We have always accepted and embraced all members of our families, from keiki to kupuna, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression. We must stop the discrimination and instead offer respect, love, and equality under the law.

We call on you to uphold Hawai‘i’s constitution, to support equality and economic justice, and to strengthen all of Hawai‘i’s ‘ohana by enacting civil union legislation now.

Sincerely,

Aloha,

Dr. Amy Agbayani, Co-Chair, Friends of Civil Rights and Filipinos for Affirmative Action
S
hawn Benton, President, Japanese American Citizens League – Honolulu Chapter
Alphonso Braggs, President, Honolulu – Hawai‘i NAACP
Puanani Burgess, Principle, One Peace-At-A-Time
Eric Gill, Financial Secretary-Treasurer, UNITE HERE Local 5
Debi Hartmann, Former Chair, Hawai‘i State Board of Education
Lynette Hi‘ilani Cruz, Professor of Anthropology; President, Ka Lei Maile Ali‘i Hawaiian Civic Club
Faye Kennedy, Co-Chair, Hawai‘i Friends of Civil Rights
Poka Laenui, Director, Institute for the Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs
Brien Matson, President, Musicians’ Association of Hawai‘i, Local 677
James Nakapa‘ahu, Representative, Hui o Na Ike, alternative media for alternative voices
Wayne Kaho‘onei Panoke, Executive Director, ‘Ilio‘ulaokalani Coalition
Vicky Holt Takamine, Executive Director, PA‘I Foundation
Allicyn Tasaka & Debbie Shimizu, Co-Chairs, Hawai‘i State Democratic Women’s Caucus

 

 

 

Joke: Marriage Equality Fails in Massachusetts

Pat Gozemba

If one did nothing but read even the half-baked right-wing screeds about the effects of same-sex marriage, life could be pretty scary. Take for example Brian Camenker’s insane piece “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage on Massachusetts” and put it in the hands of the Hawaii Family Forum and these folks: Parents for Righteousness Corporation, Ka’Ala View Baptise Chapel, and Jesus Christ Gathering His People Ministry. (No, I did not make up those names.) So is Hawaii scared?

As the fundamentalist churches (evangelical, Catholic, and Mormon)  in Hawaii struggle to defeat HB 444 Civil Unions, they are relying on Camenker’s arguments about Massachusetts. Ethan Jacobs in “MassResistance Goes Hawaiian” details the ways in which Dennis Arakaki the Executive Director of Hawaii Family Forum denies that they have pushed Camenker’s “research.” All one has to do is check out the Hawaii Family Forum site and there is Camenker’s insanity spun out once again.

Parents for Righteousness Corporation, Ka’Ala View Baptise Chapel, and Jesus Christ Gathering His People Ministry sent “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage” to every Hawaii senator. I follow that act with my own memo to the senators that I hand-delievered with Jo-Ann Adams, Co-Chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Here’s my response to Camenker that I crafted with the assistance of research by Stewart Landers, DPH, and GLAD.

To all Hawaii Senators
As a part-time resident of Hawaii and permanent resident of Massachusetts, as well as scholar and writer on issues of concern to the LGBT community, I follow Camenker’s work. Note that the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog of hate groups in the US, has named MassResistance an Anti-Gay Hate Group for the second year in a row.

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 in Hawai’i at this critical moment of the consideration of HB 444 HD 1 and its posting on the Hawaii Family Forum website, I want to give you a sense of the egregiousness of some of Camenker’s misinformation. To that end, in contrast and as an example, I detail the truth of five “mistruths” in “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” by Camenker.

I call your attention in particular to Mistruth #2 that refers to Courting Equality, a book my spouse, Karen Kahn, and I co-authored. I know first-hand the distortion of reality regarding our book. And on a final note, I would like to say that our experience in Massachusetts with same-sex marriage has been very positive—and there is not a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise.

MISTRUTH  #1
In 2006 the Parkers and Wirthlins filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the schools to notify parents and allow them to opt-out their elementary-school children when homosexual-related subjects were taught.  The federal judges dismissed the case. The judges ruled that because same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, the school actually had a duty to normalize homosexual relationships to children, and that schools have no obligation to notify parents or let them opt-out their children! Acceptance of homosexuality had become a matter of good citizenship!

TRUTH: This is a completely inaccurate statement about the First Circuit’s ruling in the Parker v. Hurley case.  The Court 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 the Wirthlins and the Parkers 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 http://www.GLAD.org)

MISTRUTH # 2
Libraries have also radically changed.  School libraries across the state, from elementary school to high school, now have shelves of books to normalize homosexual behavior and the lifestyle in the minds of kids, some of them quite explicit and even pornographic.
Parents’ complaints are ignored or met with hostility. Over the past year, homosexual groups have been using taxpayer money to distribute a large, slick hardcover book celebrating homosexual marriage titled “Courting Equality” into every school library in the state.
TRUTH: On Sept. 27, 2007, Camenker reported 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. A year later, he “reports” that taxpayer money was used and that the book is in every school not just high schools.  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.

MISTRUTH # 3
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: Rates of HIV/AIDS have not gone up considerably since same-sex marriage became legal. In fact, the number of new HIV cases has dropped by 25 percent over the past five 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).

MISTRUTH # 4
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: 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.)

MISTRUTH # 5
Since homosexual relationships are now officially “normal”, the Legislature now gives enormous tax money to homosexual activist groups. In particular, the Massachusetts Commission on Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Youth is made up of the most
radical and militant homosexual groups which target children in the schools. This year they are getting $700,000 of taxpayer money to go into the public schools.

TRUTH: Massachusetts was one of the first states to support efforts to combat homophobia by supporting programs such as Gay-Straight Alliances and Safe Spaces for GLBT 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. The legalization of same-sex marriage has had no effect on the level of funding
for these programs, though recent budget cuts have reduced this year’s appropriation to $550,000. (Source: Stewart Landers, Senior Program Director, Massachusetts Department of Public Health)

END

So is Hawaii scared? Only the religious bigots are scared. Scared that their propaganda from Camenker is not working and the newly formed alliance of Native Hawaiians, labor, religious groups, the ACLU and over 80 other organizations is impressing theHawaii Senate to follow the lead of the Hawaii House and vote for civil unions.

Married in Massachusetts… Not in Hawaii …

Kath Sands and Linda Krieger

Kath Sands, former professor of religion at UMass-Boston, and her partner Linda Krieger, an attorney, have a marriage license in Massachusetts. But last year, they moved to Honolulu, where they both teach at the university–Kath in American Studies, and Linda at the Richardson School of Law. Linda grew up in Hawaii, and so it was a homecoming of sorts. But here in Hawaii, their marriage isn’t recognized. Like us, they have joined the struggle to pass a civil unions bill this legislative session.

This week’s Honolulu Weekly, features Kath and Linda in an extraodinarily moving story by the paper’s editor Ragnar Carlson. There haven’t been many stories that cover the challenges for married Massachusetts couples who leave our state–and with few exceptions–have to leave the legal recognition of their relationships behind as well. As Carlson says, “For Kreiger and Sands, who had preiously enjoyed equal status under the law, the transition was rough.” Read the full story.

A Native Hawaiian for Civil Unions

Patricia A. Gozemba

Brad Ka’iwi Lum became the first Native Hawaiian chanter and kumu hula (teacher of hula) to speak out in favor of HB 444 for Civil Unions at a hearing of the Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee on February 24th. In coming out as a gay man he broke a long silence in his own life and among kumu hula.

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Brad Ka’iwi Lum
Lum has emerged as a force in the civil unions struggle. He is organizing a Candlelight Vigil against discrimination and inequality at the Hawaii State capitol on Saturday, March 7 at 6 pm.Brad’s Testimony

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Aloha Chair Taniguchi, Vice Chair Takamine and members of the committee. My name is Bradford Ka’iwi Tin Cheong Lum. I’m a Native Hawaiian Studies Teacher, Kumu Hula of Halau Hula ‘O Ka’iwi, Chanter, Historian, and Teacher of Native Hawaiian Culture. I want to take this time to thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify in strong support of HB444 HD1, the Hawaii Civil Unions Bill.

I would like to tell you my personal story of defeat and triumph as a gay Native Hawaiian, who has chosen to come out and fight for my rights under the law of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii. I was born and raised in the McCully neighborhood of Honolulu. My father was Chinese; my mother, Native Hawaiian , Irish, Dutch, English, and German.

Local music and culture were important to our family, but in 1982 I decided to leave Hawaii for San Francisco, California, to pursue a life where I could be open about who I was. I lived in San Francisco for the next 12 years. I had a secure job with a good income, and I built a network of friends and support that became my ohana.

In 1995 my father asked me to come home to take care of him and my mother. My father had diabetes, gout, high blood pressure, and an aneurism in his stomach, and my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a hard decision to leave San Francisco, where I had built a life and a community. I really did not want to come home, but no one in the family was taking care of my parents and I felt it was my sincere duty to do this.

I returned home and went to work taking care of my mother and father. I took them to doctors and made sure they were well cared for. Because I knew they did not accept my lifestyle, I did not have a social life. I wanted to be a good son and tried my best to build trust, compassion, and love with my parents. But at the same time, I could not be the person I really wanted to be and could not have a relationship with a partner as an adult should have.

My father passed away on December 4, 1996, and my mother passed away on March 1, 2008. I did everything that I could to make sure that my parents where well taken care of and to fulfill their every wish.  But within me, there was a wounding, crippling, alienating, painful battle. In consideration of my parents, I could not be the person I am today: a prophetic leader of liberation, service, and body and spirit integration. Today I am a mentor, but I am exiled by my own family because I have made a decision to love another man and develop a deeper meaning of kinship so I can be happy and content for the rest of my life.

Many people have thanked me for changing my life for the better, for inspiring them to change their lives as well. As soon as my mother passed away, I felt I could live consciously and responsibly. I have decided to be vibrant and alive, to fully embrace my destiny, to be mindful of every moment, every encounter no matter how seemingly insignificant, and to have the potential for radical transformation of myself and my partner or even of a whole civilization.

I now consider myself as a pioneer of civil union rights for Native Hawaiians because most Hawaiians consider coming out shameful. We keep our sexual orientation a secret from the outside world, but I believe that such actions inhibit our ability to grow and have a sense of freedom. Holding this secret blocks our ability to become liberators and life-giving contributors to our island life style and to honor our contributions—big or small—to our community. When nongay people oppress us or label us, it challenges me to liberate myself: to teach love and commitment to one another, to embrace tolerance, and to claim love without the support of a dominant culture. And it teaches me not to discriminate against others, no matter their personal choices or beliefs.

As a pioneer, I am a trailblazer for others to follow. In our day-to-day struggles to survive I have become a leader not only for Native Hawaiian rights but of all people in Hawaii. I know for a fact that in coming out and becoming a model for others, I have bettered my own life and made it possible for me to contribute something important to our island lifestyle. HB 444 HD1 takes me out of the dark past that I have endured and gives me courage. It gives back to all of us the extraordinary possibilities and outrageous adventures that await if we uncross our fingers and take a deep breath and embrace our destiny to be the best we can be.

Civil Unions should be part of our society, because this change in law tells those of us who love people of the same-sex that we are part of the definition of “Ohana,” family. It’s hard for us as island people to talk about our sexuality and to support such a measure; for many of us, it is hard to come out to our family and communities. But our strength as island people is that we have “Hanohano,” tolerance, “Ha’aheo” pride, and we have “Aloha,” love. We must not discount where we come from and our Native Hawaiian roots. As a small island community, let us not ostracize people who are different. Civil Unions are about “Kuleana,” responsibility, and “Malama,” taking care of each other and, most importantly, “Ho’omalu,” protecting the good for all people in Hawaii.

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Civil Rights-Civil Unions for Hawai’i

Patricia A. Gozemba

Honolulu, February 22–Misguided Christian fundamentalists, many of whom are politicians, rallied approximately 2,000 of their flock to the Hawai’i state capitol to try to give credence to the point that the downfall of civilization is epitomized by the granting of the civil right of civil unions to same-sex couples. Across town, LGBT people and their allies peacefully stood up for themselves.

Tara O’Neill  captured the faces of some of these folks. She skillfully juxtaposes their faces with the aspirational words of our President Barack Obama and patriotic music.

My wife Karen Kahn and I are happy to be in this video, Support HB 444. Spread the word about this video to your friends and allies!

Oscars, The L-Word, and LGBT Equality

Honolulu, HI–Being blessed by being in the middle of the Pacific, I could at an early hour channel surf between the glitz of the 80th Annual Oscars and The L-Word where Captain Tasha Williams, a decorated Iraq veteran, was getting drummed out of the military for homosexual conduct.

I kept hoping that in my ADD surfing behavior I wouldn’t miss the by-now-expected “gay moment” on the Oscars. Fortunately, I didn’t and the moment was a triumph for all of us struggling for LGBT civil rights.

In the midst of the Oscar’s garish sets, the wonders of technology allowed us to be transported to the desert in Iraq. There male and female military personnel, in the only costumes they get to wear, desert camouflague fatigues, presented the nominees for Best Short Documentary.

For me the irony sizzled. One nominee, Sari’s Mother, shows how the US has thrown the Iraqi medical system into disarray. Another, Freeheld, demonstrates that the freedom and liberty that some LGBT citizens fight for abroad are not theirs at home. And the Oscar went to Freeheld!

Freeheld tells the brave story of the final months of a New Jersey police officer’s fight with cancer and with the elected Board of Freeholders that governs Ocean County, NJ. Garden State Equality, especially the ever resourceful and impassioned Steve Goldstein, plays a crucial role in the poignant struggle of Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester’s battle for her domestic partner Stacie Andree’s right to her pension benefits and financial security. Lieutenant Hester and Garden State Equality are the heroes of this wrenching saga.

I was stunned by the film’s power when I saw it last spring at the Boston Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and not surprised at all when it walked away with a Boston festival prize, a Sundance, and now an Oscar.

The L-Word’s fictional Captain Williams fighting a military court and the real Lieutenant Hester struggling for justice throw into sharp relief the discrimination LGBT people suffer and the bravery of those who will not accept it. Military and police officers put themselves in harm’s way for our safety. Injustice seems all the more ironic in the denial of their equality.

NJ Civil Unions vs. MA Gay Marriage

Well it took another commission in yet another state to make clear that civil unions are not marriages and thus do not give all the rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer which obtained an early copy of the findings of the NJ Civil Union Review Commission, civil unions in the Garden State have been a failure.

Steven Goldstein who chairs Garden State Equality and who also co-chairs the Civil Union Review Commission had harsh words for the civil unions law saying that it “segegates, discriminates and humiliates the very people it is supposed to protect.”

Members of the New Jersey LGBT community have voted with their feet. As of mid-January only 2, 329 couples have walked into their municipal offices and applied for a civil union license. Despite the posturing of what’s left of the Democratic presidential candidates that civil unions are “as good as” marriages, folks in NJ just do not believe it.

Commission hearings took testimony from 96 people, among them Lynn Fontaine Newsome, president of the NJ State Bar Association, who called NJ civil unions “a failed experiment.”

The findings cite Massachusetts as the only state that has provided LGBT relationship equality. Everyone knows what marriage is. Folks in VT, CT, NJ, and now NH are still trying to figure out what civil unions are. While that is happening, LGBT people are being discriminated against–even though they are in civil unions that are meant to protect them. Or perhaps the civil unions are just meant to give LGBT people a crumb and placate marriage equality opponents.

Massachusetts, with 10,000 same-sex couples married, offers a legitimate object lesson to those who want to study relationship equality in a fair and open-minded way

Dads for Lesbian Daughters

from the Washington Blade Online

‘Family man’ tries to overturn Wis. gay marriage ban
Wants state to vote on marriage, civil unions as separate questions
(AP) | Dec 10, 3:10 PM

Few people took Bill McConkey seriously when he filed a lawsuit in July trying to overturn Wisconsin’s new ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

The relatively unknown University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh political science instructor was acting as his own lawyer and didn’t have the backing of the state’s major gay rights group.

But his challenge to the amendment — approved by 59 percent of voters last year — has picked up steam in recent weeks.

A Dane County judge ruled the lawsuit can go forward on grounds that McConkey was harmed as a voter by the wording of the question. McConkey claims the referendum illegally asked two questions in one — whether to ban gay marriage and whether to ban civil unions — and he wants the state to vote on each question.

So, who is this guy and why is he doing this? More

What’s great about this story is that we have another father coming out for his lesbian daughter’s civil rights. Bill McConkey joins San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders and probably millions of other fathers who support their children’s right to be legally connected and hopefully married to the person whom they love most in the world.

In suing for his civil right to be able to vote on gay marriage and civil unions as two separate ballot questions, McConkey, a political science professor at UW-Oshkosh presses for his legal rights as well as his daughter’s.

McConkey believes that the Wisconsin electorate would not have defeated civil unions in the 2006 election, but he concedes that gay marriage was probably doomed. He does believe, however, that gay marriage is a constitutional right. “I think ultimately I would say under the U.S. Constitution, the way it’s written, we cannot constitutionally deny the right of gay people to be married. Neither can the government order a church and say you have to marry gay people.”

Sanders like McConkey sees gay marriage as a civil right. He put a lot of his political capital on the line when he came all the way out for his daughter Lisa in pressing for gay marriage. As a California resident, Lisa Sanders, already had the right to enter into a domestic partnership that grants her all the rights and privileges of marriage. But as her dad poignantly noted what she does not have is the right to call herself married. On the day before he was kicking off his re-election campaign, September 19, 2007, he decided to, in his words, “lead with my heart.”

An emotional Mayor Sanders reversed his previous pledge to veto the San Diego City Council’s 5-3 vote to support gay marriage. He cited his acquaintances, staff, and most significantly his daughter, whose rights he could no longer deny. “In the end, I couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationships, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife, Rana,” said Sanders.

Ever since I began doing research for Courting Equality, I’ve been consistently impressed with the power of parents in support of their children’s civil rights. Their support is inspired by love and fired by a patriotic belief that all of their kids should have the same rights. In Courting Equality, one of Marilyn Humphries’ compelling photos shows a mother at a 2004 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention holding a sign that reads, “My Son Is Not a Second-Class Citizen.” Her sign says it all!

As parents speak out, politicians begin to listen more intently and then more politicians speak out. As both the electorate and the elected speak out the circle of equality is expanded.