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