Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Aloha Hawaii!

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion and mercy. Since the middle of the 19th century, it also has come to be used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello. "Aloha" is also included in the state nickname of Hawaii, the "Aloha State".

HONOLULU, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Hawaii's House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday to legalize same-sex marriage in the overwhelmingly Democratic state popular as a wedding and honeymoon destination, paving the way for anticipated final passage in the Senate next week.  The measure cleared the House in a late-night vote of 30-19.  Governor Neil Abercrombie has indicated he would swiftly sign the measure into law, making Hawaii the 15th or 16th U.S. state to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. --As currently drafted, the Hawaii bill would take effect on Dec. 2.

This past week, Eric and I watched via the web,   the testimony on the proposed bill on Marriage Equality, before the State Senate and Assembly in the U.S. State of Hawaii. To be honest, most of it was pretty painful to sit though. Opponents of equal rights flooded the hearings with speakers in an attempt to “run out the clock” on the legislation and prevent it from getting to a vote.

Speaker after speaker got up to parrot the same list of ridiculous and completely false talking points, designed to stoke homophobia in state lawmakers. Claiming gay sex would be a mandated subject in Hawaii schools, claiming children raised by same sex couples are abused and grow up damaged. Claims, that granting equal rights is a “slippery slope” that would lead to polygamy, legalized incest and bestiality.

It was very hard to sit and listen to seemingly normal people stand up and spew such bigoted, vile and utterly discredited lies about not just their fellow Hawaiians, but about all LGBT people. People who seem to honestly believe that they are victims of discrimination because they can’t put the civil rights of people they don’t like up for a public vote.

I was pretty much set to write Hawaii off as a bastion of bigotry,  where “Aloha” had clearly been reduced to nothing more than a tourist slogan, when this happened…

Hawaii State Representative, Mark Kaniela Ing  at age 24, is the youngest member of the State Legislature. In a debate saturated with a sea of hateful testimony, his comments were a brilliant moment of clarity and heartfelt honesty, eloquently spoken by a straight ally. 

Ing described how learning of   Matthew Shepard's murder changed his own  perceptions of gay people, and how the reality of the lives  of his own constituents completely discredited  the "gay lifestyle" argument that anti-equality policymakers had tried to make the central issue in the debate.

 Someone who like many people, grew up thinking one thing, and though his own life experience of seeing the truth of the lives of LGBT people, came to understand what was really at stake here. Representative Ing stood up for equality, he stood up for justice and yes, he stood up for the true meaning of   "Aloha".

One of the reason opponents of equal civil rights for all, are in such a panic, is because they know they are losing. In 2013 it's much harder in the light of facts and common sense, to make people believe that their friends, their family members, are some kind of "threat". It's much harder to convince people who know LGBT people, that those same friends, those same families, deserve to be treated as something less than everyone else.

The hate groups that have made their fortunes selling bigotry and fear, are now themselves, very scared because the snake oil they have been peddling for over a generation isn't selling any more, and lawmakers like Kaniela Ing, are not afraid to stand up and say so.

Aloha indeed...

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