It has been 20 years since Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled
that denying marriage to same-sex couples violated our
Constitution. For those families, it has been 20 years of
fighting to be respected as equals.
The other day I asked a family of two women here with
their 16 year old daughter, how they could live in a
community that rejects them and sit through 5 days of
people testifying loudly and repeatedly that they aren’t a
real family, that their love isn’t real, that they are evil, they
are an abomination and have no place in Hawaii.
They said, for them the hearing was horrific, but we
endured because we love our daughter, our daughter loves
us, and we still have hope that one day she will grow up in
a Hawaii that is better than this, where she won’t face
discrimination because her family is different than others.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is our chance to fulfill that dream of a
better future and help end an era of discrimination that is
hurting countless families here in Hawaii. Make no mistake
this is a hard issue but we are elected to make hard
decisions and do the right thing knowing not everyone will
approve. When interracial marriage was legalized less than
fifty years ago just 20% of the public approved of such
relationships. 20%. But I wonder how people back then
explain to their grandchildren today that opposing
interracial marriage at the time was the right thing to do?
What we do here today is not game changing, is not
precedent-setting, is not extraordinary. It is but one page in
the greatest tradition in American history – the sacred
obligation of each succeeding generation to extend basic
rights, liberties and freedom to those previously denied
them, and live up to the promise of freedom and equality
this nation made at its inception. Women’s suffrage, racial
equality and interracial marriage are now commonplace,
but each was seen as unacceptable, controversial and even
immoral in recent history. These social evolutions were not
easy, and it is unfortunate that the great march toward
justice and equality often divides before it unites, but
pursuing freedom for all has been the right thing to do
every time, and our society has healed and together we
have grown stronger.
It’s time we move forward once more. Attitudes are
changing, and I know the day will soon come when samesex families are seen as equals, because people aren’t born
discriminating against them, people are taught to
discriminate against them. And those lessons are slowly
disappearing with each passing generation as more people
begin to recognize that they have sons and daughters, and
friends and neighbors who are gay, but who are regular
people with hopes and dreams and who have families just
As we have heard from the public it has become clear that
there is much misinformation and misunderstanding about
these families. But the truth is that the rest of us have little
to fear because same-sex families have always lived in our
community and will continue to live here whether we pass
this bill or not. They will continue to have relationships
whether we pass this bill or not, and they will continue to
raise children whether we pass this bill or not. But we have
an obligation to see that everyone is treated equally and
fairly under the laws of this great state where it is selfevident that we are all created equal, endowed by our
creator with the unalienable right to pursue life, liberty, and
happiness. And I don’t know anyone, who can find
happiness while being discriminated against because of the
person they love.
I believe we are bound by the oaths we took to uphold the
spirit of our Constitution to pass this bill to ensure equality
for all, but even if we were not, and I did not know how to
vote, as an elected leader I choose to err on the side of
fairness. As a voice of the people I choose to err on the side
of freedom. As a son of these islands I choose to err on the
side of aloha. And as a human, as a human being I choose
to err on the side of love.
I want my children to grow up in a place where they will be
treated the same as everyone else whether they look
Japanese or Hawaiian, whether they are straight or gay.
Who they fall in love with and marry should be up to them,
and no one else should be the judge of that. We can no
longer allow the rights of one minority to be ignored. We
should know better. In Hawaii we are all minorities and we
all deserve the same dignity and respect.
Mr. Speaker, someday I am going to be the one answering
to my grandchildren. When they ask, I want to tell them I
did the right thing. I vote yes.