Intolerance, Not Integrity
Wednesday - April 15, 2009
Last Thursday Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Taniguichi nixed proposed amendments that would have kept civil union legislation alive in the current session of state Legislature. According to both, the Democratic Senate majority lacked the votes to pull the bill out of committee - so the integrity of the committee process would be respected.
Oh, yes, such integrity.
Their move just drips with integrity.
Aiea Democrat Blake Oshiro, the House sponsor of the civil unions bill, got it right. “I just think it’s sad that religious dogma and fear have kind of trumped civil rights,” he said. “I think that’s just sad overall for Hawaii and where it’s always stood, being at the forefront of individual rights.”
Indeed, it is “sad overall.”
Forty years ago, the high-strung Filipina and I left a Ph.D. program in Iowa for one at the University of Hawaii. I remember a conversation we had on that long drive across the country about the pride we felt heading for a state whose congressional delegation was composed of Japanese-American and Chinese-American United States senators (Dan Inouye and Hiram Fong), and two Japanese-American members of the House of Representatives (Spark Matsunaga and Patsy Mink).
Three of the four were pioneers: Inouye the first of Japanese ancestry to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate; Fong, the first of Chinese ancestry to serve in the Senate; Mink, the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress.
Remember, now, I was coming from Caucasia - the beloved Great Midwest of my birth and education: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Iowa. Pretty white bread, those spots - and segregated, if not by law, very definitely by custom. Where there were African Americans, they were ghettoized in neighborhoods of industrial cities like Gary, Detroit and Cleveland.
Upon arrival, Hawaii continued to amaze me: for its high rate of intermarriage, its tolerance for people of different ethnicities and religions, its willingness to embrace change.
The Hawaii state Legislature, for example, would be the first to ratify the equal rights amendment for women. And Patsy Mink would be one of the principal congressional architects of Title IX, the landmark legislation that granted young women equality on America’s playing fields.
And Hawaii’s Legislature was the first to ratify it.
Then, of course, last fall Hawaii’s voters demonstrated their pride in Island tolerance by giving keiki o ka aina Barack Obama 74 percent of their votes - the highest percentage of any state in the union - to help put the first African-American president in the White House. On election night 2008 and inauguration day 2009, Hawaii’s hearts swelled with pride and emotion.
Yet in this spring of 2009, less than three months after Obama’s inauguration, the hearts of other Hawaii residents swelled at the sight of 7,000 (by security’s estimates) or 12,000 (by the faithful’s estimates of their own numbers) red-shirt clad protesters marching on the Capitol to protest civil unions. They marched to testify for the Lord and stop this abomination called civil unions.
I recently observed during a panel discussion that we’d come a long way in a short time, from producing and putting the punctuation mark on the election of America’s first African-American president to telling gay and lesbian partners: “Whoa! To the back of the bus with you.”
While we in Hawaii have appeared to grow more intolerant, three Mainland states - Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut - plus the District of Columbia have approved either same-sex marriage or civil unions.
An anti-civil-unions attorney responded, dismissively, “Oh, those are all East Coast states.”
Sure, the effete East where socialists, intellectuals and gays have roamed free for so long.
Two days later, the Supreme Court in the state of Iowa - the heart of the heart-land - decided that same-sex marriage was legal.
Equality is equality, and the majority - no matter the dictates they attribute to their Lord - have no right to tyrannize the minority.
Iowans seem to understand this. So should we - as we once did.
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