Category Archives: Hawai’i

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.

Counting on Republicans for Equality

Pat Gozemba

Jerry Sanders, the Republican mayor of San Diego, has testified in the Prop 8 federal court case in support of marriage equality.  Sanders stunned the nation two years ago when he came out in favor of marriage equality. Now, according to the Bay Area Reporter, he has taken another bold step and added his voice to the chorus of luminaries supporting the case against Prop 8.

On a day when we’ve heard that Cindy McCain and daughter Meghan McCain have come out against Prop 8 on the NO H8 website, it’s beginning to feel surreal. Of course Papa John McCain maintains his troglodyte views.

Meanwhile, I have a chance tomorrow to go down to the Hawai’i legislature and see if the Senate can muster the courage to pass civil unions. Check out what Equality Hawai’i has to say. I wish that all of the opponents of civil unions in the Hawai’i legislature would read Ted Olson’s piece in Newsweek. He lays it out pretty clearly: religious bias is denying full civil rights to LGBT people.

It took Nixon to open relations with China. Maybe Olson, the Republicans favorite conservative lawyer, will open up our civil rights.

Lying to Defeat Marriage Equality

by Pat Gozemba

Karen Ocamb wrote an insightful and very instructional piece, “Federal Challenge to Prop 8 Hearing Today,” in LGBT.POV. Ocamb is focused on the Ted Olson and David Boies federal suit on behalf of Americans for Equal Rights. They have set out to prove the unconstitutionality of Prop 8. Ocamb gives important context for today’s case. All of us who are struggling to achieve marriage equality should read her article and consider the strategies that our opponents are mounting against us.

I’m back in Hawaii and looking forward to joining with the LGBT community and our many allies in trying to bring some semblance of equality to this island state where the contemporary marriage equality movement all began with a favorable court decision in 1993. Sure, the brave decision of the Hawai’i high court brought about the backlash of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, but it also woke up many of us to come to believe that we deserved the right to marry. No matter how many states put in place their own versions of DOMA, the very possibility of a hope for equality ignited the imaginations of millions of people committed to justice.

Since 1993, the creativity of civil rights activists across the country has brought us to courts, legislatures, and public forums of all sorts. It’s pumped up our grassroots organizations like the Courage Campaign and Join the Impact and some of the tried and true warriors on our side like the American Civil Liberties Union.

But that, sixteen year-old court victory in Hawai’i has done the same for the anti-equality movement, those who want to assure that they are more equal and more righteous. Their forums have largely been hidden behind church doors and fueled by church coffers. The religious engines that are stoking the denial of our civil rights are Catholic and Mormon. They have created the National Organization for Marriage, a slick hate group that has served as a conduit for Mormon and Catholic money and kept up an internet presence.

The anti-equality side also hit pay dirt when they hired political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint to run the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign in California (2008) and then the “Yes on 1 Stand for Marriage” campaign in Maine (2009). The campaigns were virtually the same and were fueled by the big lies of made up “consequences,” of marriage equality particularly the sure-fire inner, the teaching of gay marriage to schoolchildren. We will hear this and all of their other nightmarish projections all over the country. The lies work.

As the Hawai’i Family Equality Coalition focuses its attention on the state senate in hopes of passing HB 444 a civil unions bill, we would all do well to study Karen Ocamb’s analysis of the strategies that Olson and Boies are using in federal court as well as those of Schubert and Flint that local copycats like the Hawaii Family Forum and Transformation Hawai’i.

LGBT allies, read and study Ocamb’s article.


Fought in Maine but Married in Mass.

Tambry Young and Suzanne King wed in Salem, MA on 11.7.09

Tambry Young and Suzanne King wed in Salem, MA on 11.7.09

Tribute

by Pat Gozemba

Tambry Young and Suzanne King, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the people of Massachusetts, represented by those of us gathered here today on November 7, 2009 in Salem, recognize and celebrate your relationship of 28 years.  We honor the extraordinary efforts that you have taken to protect your relationship and your 9-year-old daughter Shylar.

You have travelled thousands of miles from your native land, from the state of Hawai’i, to Massachusetts a state where your love is honored, your family is acknowledged, and your civil right to marry is guaranteed. May that civil right be granted one day to all of the people in Hawai’i.

Karen and I met you when we joined the Hawai’i Family Equality Coalition struggle for civil unions. We had the privilege of seeing you emerge as leaders of the movement with Tambry becoming co-chair of the coalition.  As a Native Hawaiian family you speak out publicly for the rights of all lesbians and gays living in Hawai’i to have the option to marry.  You are profiles in courage for those who live in fear.

The joy and commitment of your lives inspires others, especially young people, straight and LGBT, to join the struggle for civil rights for all.

I wasn’t surprised at all when Tambry decided to come to Maine to join the fight to protect marriage equality in the “No on 1” campaign. What does surprise me, a bit , is that 15 days after she landed in Boston and we traveled to Maine and did endless hours of phone-banking and data tallying we are at this moment today—her  marriage to Suzanne.

The struggle for equality in Maine led to this celebration of equality today in Massachusetts. On October 24th the day Tambry landed in Boston, Karen took her on a little walking tour of our Salem Willows neighborhood and introduced her to some of the many LGBT families in our little community. Over cocktails later, Tambry mused “what’s up” all these out gay people and their kids?  Everybody is so open. She had met Olga and Julie and their daughters Mattea and Marina and that was just the beginning.

Two days later on Monday Karen mused, “You know Tambry you could get married in Massachusetts.” In a rare a-historical moment, I the lesbian historian said, “Yeah, you could use our address.” Karen looked at me and said, “Honey, anyone can come to Massachusetts and get married.”  Oh, yeah, we fought for that right too and we’re so glad we did.

A day later, Tambry and I went to Boston’s Top of the Hub, where Marilyn took Karen and me for our wedding luncheon in 2005.  Great spot.  Marvelous view of the city. Weddings were on our minds. Tambry wondered if she could get Suzanne and Shylar to Massachusetts. Next thing we knew, Suzanne was on the phone and a proposal was in the works.

An elaborate proposal ritual followed in which Tambry topped every gesture of courtly love that I had ever imagined. On Friday, October 30th in the lobby of the Coldwell Banker office in Honolulu, Tambry’s friend Amy delivered to Suzanne flowers and a box of chocolates with a card inside showing Tambry on bended knee outside the “No on 1” campaign office in Portland, Maine asking Suzanne to be her wife.  I encourage all of you to check out the card in the slide show. It’s a winner.

Well, Suzanne accepted the proposal and here we are today at this exciting moment of equality. I wish that every person in Maine who voted against marriage equality could look in their hearts and reconsider what kind of a victory it is to deny beautiful families like that of Suzanne, Tambry, and Shylar the security , commitment, and love of marriage.

We are blessed to be in Massachusetts where our constitution recognizes that Tambry and Suzanne are part of the “’we’ in we the people.” May equality take on a new life all over this country from Maine to Hawai’i. Our resolve and more importantly our love will win the day.

Tambry, Suzanne, and Shylar you are leading the way. May your lives be blessed.

Marriage Proposal

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry arrived in Massachusetts from Honolulu, HI, a week ago to help out with Maine’s “No on 1” campaign. Then she realized, she could do more than fight for the right to marriage—she could marry her partner of 28 years here in Massachusetts. So an elaborate proposal was put together long-distance, that included the above photograph. Suzanne said “yes”—and on Saturday, November 7, Suzane and Tambry will marry in Salem, MA, with many of our Courting Equality friends there as witnesses. Suzanne and daughter, Shylar, fly in on November 4 to begin the festivities! Everybody wish them well!

Five by Five and Counting

 On May 13, Beacon Broadside posted this commentary by Karen. Things are changing so fast, that by the time your read this, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch may have signed New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage bill. According to the New York Times, a compromise was reached today.

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, New England feels like a roller coaster hurtling toward equality. On April 6, two more states– Maine and New Hampshire– passed marriage equality legislation. The Maine bill has been signed into law by Governor Baldacci; New Hampshire awaits the governor’s signature. In addition, this year Connecticut and Vermont joined Massachusetts in recognizing same-sex marriage. Thus, at the five-year anniversary of marriage equality, five New England states have at the very least expressed strong support for a vision of inclusiveness. In addition, Iowa– smack in the heartland– allows same-sex couples to marry. Read more.