Here we are again, Hawaii, arguing once more over who gets to love whom. One of the women profiled in our cover story this week, UH-Manoa American studies professor Kathleen Sands, has more patience for this stuff than I do, which is really something when you consider that she is one of the thousands of Hawaii residents whose right to equal protection under the law has lately been compared to some of the most vile stuff imaginable.
“Nothing is more obvious about the debate over gay rights here in Hawaii than that this is a religious and moral disagreement,” she told me over the weekend. “People say that very, very clearly, and on both sides.”
Sands has spent her professional life working with people of wildly divergent religious and cultural values, learning to create community and mutual respect among them. It’s a background that allows her to keep faith, as it were, and to appeal to what she calls the “moveable middle.” Sands is hopeful that there are enough people of goodwill out there to keep the gay rights movement moving forward.
Let’s hope there are at least nine of them in the Hawaii Senate. That’s the number required to pull House Bill 444 out of a deadlocked Judiciary Committee and bring it to a full floor vote. It would take 17 votes there to override any possible veto—though there’s no sense in guessing at Gov. Linda Lingle’s intentions just yet, her increasing hawkishness of late doesn’t offer much hope.
It is the responsibility of our elected leaders, as Sands’ partner Linda Krieger so eloquently argued in her testimony before the Judiciary Committee last week, to guarantee equal rights for all of Hawaii’s people. That said, it is the responsibility of the people to make their voices heard.
The red shirt crowd has done that, and all too often with rhetoric that goes well beyond the offensive to the truly disturbing. I’ve spoken with several people over the past week, most of them straight, who were so sickened by the atmosphere in the Judiciary hearing that they were compelled to leave the room.
The rest of us—those strongly in support of civil unions, yes, but perhaps Kathleen Sands’ moveable middle most of all—must now act.
Lama I Ke Kukui - Light up the Night for Equality
Hawaii State Capitol, in front of the Queen Liliuokalani statue, Sat 3/7, 6pm, all those who support equality for all Hawaii’s families are encouraged to attend, and to bring a candle, 733-8436