Rep. Lee's SB 1 floor speech docx


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Hawaii Rep. Chris Lee's floor speech on Senate Bill 1, Nov. 8, 2013.

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Rep. Lee's SB 1 floor speech docx

  1. 1. 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
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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 like us. 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
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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.