Marriage Equality – Pride Parades and Legacy Votes

The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Today, LGBTQ Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots. Wikipedia

This past Saturday, Kauai hosted its first Pride Parade. It was a beautiful event and a fabulous success.  Kudo’s to the organizers and all who came out in support.

Kauai and the world has come a long way since those dark days of 1969 and before.  And yes, we still have a long way still to go and the fight for equality and the end of bigotry and discrimination at all levels is never-ending.

In the world of policy and politics there are only a few times in ones career when a vote has truly historical consequences. The vast majority of votes are about money and not about people. Yes, the money for schools, highways, airports and harbors – impact people. But the votes that truly impact the entire population, the kind of votes that change peoples lives – are truly rare.

I served in the Hawaii State Senate from 2002 through 2010. In 2009 as the then Senate Majority Leader I fought hard in support of HB444 which would have legalized Civil Unions as an alternative to marriage. At the time conservative voices in the community viewed the effort as a surreptitious way to legalize same gender marriage, and the battle for its passage turned into one of the biggest public policy fights of my political career. I remember some residents on Kauai purchasing newspaper advertisements saying “Tell Hooser to vote no!”  The capitol rotunda and the hearing rooms were constantly packed with red shirts and white shirts pressing all legislators hard in support or against.

The nearly two year process that it took to ultimately pass HB444 was intense, emotionally draining but also immensely gratifying. To this day I look back upon my work on this effort with great personal satisfaction and an experience that has shaped my life. Fighting the good fight, working so very hard on an issue that truly means something, and then voting my conscience in support of the equality of love – I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

On July 6, 2010 in a room packed with advocates, the measure was veto’ed by then Governor Linda Lingle. It was a heartbreaking moment for many, many people. But while we lost the battle for HB444, in the end 3 years later we won the war.

On 11/14/2013 with then Governor Neil Abercrombie leading the way, a special session of the legislature was convened and the Marriage Equality Act was shepherded into law.

After attending the Pride Parade on Kauai this past Saturday, I decided to review the legislative history of what started out as a draft bill labeled SD1, and ended up as SD1_HD1 and then Act 001 – which is now the law of the land in Hawaii.

While not unanimous, the measure easily sailed through the Senate unamended. In the House a majority of the Republican minority joined with conservative Democrats and formed a coalition of 19 members intent on killing the measure. This group made 29 separate attempts to amend and kill the measure, before it finally passed in the House.

The final votes count as reflected in the official status report and legislative record:

11/8/2013 H Passed Third Reading with roll call vote; 19 voting no Aquino, Awana, Cachola, Carroll, Cullen, Fale, Fukumoto, Har, Ito, Johanson, Jordan, Matsumoto, McDermott, Oshiro, Tokioka, Tsuji, Ward, Woodson, Yamane and 2 excused Cabanilla, Choy. Transmitted to Senate.
11/12/2013 S Passed Final Reading. 19 Aye(s); Aye(s) with reservations: none . 4 No(es): Senator(s) Gabbard, Kim, Kouchi, Slom. 2 Excused: Senator(s) Dela Cruz, Taniguchi.

The four Kauai state legislators were split:

Senator Ronald Kouchi and Representative James Tokioka voted No and against marriage equality.

Representative Dee Morikawa and Representative Derek Kawakami (now Kauai Mayor) voted Yes and in support of marriage equality.

Why does anyone vote a certain way?  

In my experience votes on these types of issues are cast either out of conviction, or fear.  Either the legislator feels morally obligated to vote a certain way, and or they are fearful of the political consequences that accompany the vote.

We can speculate as to why someone votes a certain way or not, but to a large degree that is a wasted exercise. What matters most is the vote itself. Each legislator must justify their own votes to their own constituency and their own family. Their vote is their legacy and they have to own it.

Mahalo to Representative Morikawa and now Mayor Kawakami for your vote in support of marriage equality. I deeply appreciate and thank you for supporting this issue and that critically important vote of November 8, 2013.

“Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us.” Petrarch

First published on 6/26/19 in The Garden Island Newspaper – Policy and Politics, Gary Hooser

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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