HRC Blog

Working on the Ground for Civil Unions in Hawaii

Well, we’ve arrived in the Aloha State early on Sunday morning and jumped right into the middle of the civil unions fight.  For those of you who follow our field work, you’ll recall that I spent two weeks in the state last year working on the bill with our friends at Equality Hawaii and nearly passed it out of the legislature.  We’re back this year to finish the job! Today, Adrian Matanza and I covered two simultaneous events, one for civil unions and one opposing it.  While I was at an interfaith service attended by 150 clergy and lay persons from 12 different denominations, Adrian was at a Capitol rally hosted by our opposition. The interfaith service was held a day prior to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and simultaneously with the opposition’s planned rally to highlight the difference in focus of the opposing sides of this bill.  Supporters of equality and HB 444 urge lōkahi (togetherness and unity in native Hawaiian) within the many diverse communities of Hawaii, just as Dr. King did in the fight for civil rights many decades ago, while opponents continued to foster an atmosphere of divisiveness and segregation. “Our event today, held here at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church and including representatives from many different faith traditions, proves that our opposition does not have a monopoly within the faith community,” said Tambry Young, Co-Chair of Equality Hawaii.  “It is a stark contrast of positions and motivations between our two sides.  We should be one Hawaii, with equal treatment for all our people.” Meanwhile, less than a mile away, the radical opposition bused in loads of people from conservative mega churches around the island.  Despite their best efforts, they failed to live up to their promised attendance goal – gathering only one third of the 24,000 pledged.  Some on-lookers compared this year’s attendance with a similar rally last year. Organized buses brought people in from all over the island. We counted over 21 buses with about 100 people in each of them. Many were children and many seemed as if they weren't exactly sure as to why they were there. Of the speakers, many were from Evangelical and Catholic congregations calling on their members to protect traditional marriage and deny rights to a minority population. The organizers opened with prayers and music to rile up the crowd. They then followed with an action for the people: meet or call your senators and let them know that you support traditional marriage. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann also spoke and reminded people that he has been an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage and that they should remember that during his run for Governor. A couple dozen supporters showed up at the Capitol as counter demonstrators.  They were met with great opposition and did their best standing their ground for what they believed.  The supporters came from all walks of life, from college students to an older couple to several clergy members equating discrimination to injustice.  Of the many signs, one stuck out more than the others.  It read, "The Spirit of MLK, Jr. stands here. Shame on you." We’ll continue to post updates and the progress of our work, so keep checking back to HRC Back Story to get the latest info!

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