The World's New Gay State

For Gays Everywhere, it’s a “Blue Hawaii”

There’s little to cheer about when it comes to Gay life in paradise.

It’s official.  After decades of battling for Gay equality, Hawaii can be written off.  This is especially poignant, after years of deluding myself into thinking Hawaii was different.  Last night, the announcement was made that Gov. Linda Lingle , a Republican, would not permit the passage of same-sex civil unions in her state, on the grounds it would be too similar to traditional marriage.

Many of you can remember as I do, that Hawaii was the first state to have it’s legislature, more than a decade ago, meet to  consider domestic partnerships and civil unions, at a time when no other state had even approached the debate in a serious way.  In the end, whether through lack of political will or courage, the government left the fate and freedom of an entire people, in the hands of the voting populace.  An overwhelming 60+ percent of the voters struck down the measure.  When, I wonder, will collective human consciousness acknowledge this atrocity and make it right?  If the federal government of the 1960’s had left the fate and freedom of African-Americans in the hands of the general voters, where would the USA be with it’s human and  civil rights record?  If the fate and freedom of millions of African-Americans was not left in the hands of the voters, then why is the fate and freedom of millions of Gay-Americans approached differently?

I am very familiar with the Pacific cultures.  Generally, as a regional group, they are socially conservative and place profound importance  on family bonds and children.  In many Pacific nations, the very existence of Gays is outlawed and can result in harsh criminal penalties.

Many Hawaiians like to refer to themselves as “cosmopolitan.”  It is a reference to a varied ethnic and ancestral heritage.  It’s not uncommon to meet someone, who may to an untrained eye, simply be considered or referred to as an “islander,” when in fact, very few people have any traces of Hawaiian in their bloodline.  They may be part Samoan, Filipina, Chinese, German and English but by birth in the US, also be American.  And as I mentioned earlier, Hawaii remains the only state in the USA where Caucasian European-Americans form only a minority of the population.  They do not however, live the lives of a typically oppressed minority.  Their power comes more from a base in finances than any other aspect of life.

So why, after all of these years, is Hawaii still impotent in delivering the basic right to its people?  The answer is, as is often the case, based in religion.

As the clock ticked away for the Governor to make her decision, thousands of religiously inclined gathered to let their numbers be known.  They didn’t protest, they didn’t display any hostility.  They simply stood in silence.  Some sang hymnals, while reaching upwards towards the Heavens, while every one of them wore white shirts with badges saying “iVote.”  The implication of course, is that politicians will face the wrath of the pious if they allow the pro-gay civil unions bill to pass.

So yes, Hawaii has a long tradition of religion.  For the many years I kept a home in Hawaii, I had thought to myself thousands of times and openly expressed it nearly as often, that the missionaries that settled into Hawaii a little more than a century ago, have successfully made a colossal mess of things.  They tainted the culture and its effects remain to this day.

I have to wonder how Gov. Lingle can sleep at night.  The first duty in justice and democracy is to care for those who live their lives on the margins.  The majority of Hawaiians had nothing to lose in this fight.  Those who will suffer in her inaction will continue to be denied the freedoms of the majority.  The message in Hawaii is loud and clear — Gays are NOT free and equal citizens in Hawaii.  They can gather as they wish in their private homes, but don’t expect proper society to openly acknowledge they have a place at the human table.  Their relationships and the human desire to have a family will not be recognized as valid.

The message is Homosexuals can exist in Hawaii and even prosper to some extent, but no more than their Heterosexual masters are inclined to allow them.  The “Cavalcade of Disappointment” has just made another stop and this time, it was in Hawaii.  Earlier this year it was Maine and before that, New York.

I no longer conceal my contempt for our oppressors as if it’s a mere disagreement.  No.  It’s much worse than that.  These evil-doers are only the latest perpetrators in a very long history of shunning, belittling and discriminating against my people and our very rights to freedom, liberty, democracy and equality.  Another generation of our Gay family is ostracized  from fully participating in the human experience.  How many more Gays will die never having felt the joy of acceptance?  Of belonging?  And participating without hiding behind closed curtains not even a sad, distant and haunting memory? 

The irony is the shame falls squarely on the non-Gay majority.  May God have mercy on Governor Lingle and her soul.  I wonder when we are gone, who will they subject to their injustices?  When we are living in peace and equality – and enjoying far more liberty “over there” than was ever possible in Hawaii, we will not look back wistfully, for we’ll know what we left behind was inhumane and unworthy of our people.