Senator Kahele SB 1 floor speech

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Hawaii Sen. Gil Kahele's floor speech on Senate Bill 1, Nov. 12, 2013.

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Senator Kahele SB 1 floor speech

  1. 1. SENATOR GIL KAHELE SB1 HD1 (RELATING TO EQUAL RIGHTS) NOVEMBER 12, 2013 Madam President I rise to stand in strong support of the bill. Kekahi i kekahi...I would hear my Tutu say. Love One Another. It was a saying I remember from the early days of my barefoot youth growing up in the 1940ʻs in the Hawaiian fishing village of Miloli‘i, South Kona. It was a simple time back then. The territory of Hawai‘i, although robbed of its innocence on December 7th, was still a place where the words “Aloha” and “E Komo Mai” were meant to describe an openness and a caring for everybody, no matter if you were a stranger or a non-Hawaiian. Miloli‘i and my Tutus always welcomed everyone. It is a value I still carry with me to this day, 72 years later. As one of 6 members in this chamber of the only recognized indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of this State, it is with great pride that I stand here today. It is because, as my colleague from Maui, Senator English, pointed out last week, same sex relationships are part of the very fabric of the Hawaiian people, my ancestors, and history. The ‘Ai Kāne. Although not commonly known or taught in today's history classes, the journals from Captain Cook's Third Voyage include extensive eyewitness accounts of the Hawaiian people and their culture that described a social class of ‘Ai Kāne, men who were attached to the court of the Aliʻi and High Chiefs who served as social, sexual and political intermediaries. The ‘Ai Kāne refers to relationships beyond the “Hoa” or “Friends” which binds people on intimate levels of love and companionship. These relationships were not only reserved for men but for women as well. As the word ʻAi Kāne, can be commonly found in moʻolelo of the goddess Pele. One legend tells that Pele is spelled by a hula and trapped in the spirit world. Peleʻs sister Hiʻiaka asks her ʻAi Kāne Hopoe (her female friend) to surrender their last kiss before Hi‘iaka is sent on a mission to dance for her sister so that she can awaken. Many of Hawai‘iʻs famous warriors had ‘Ai Kāne as was the chief Umi who reigned from
  2. 2. SENATOR GIL KAHELE SB1 HD1 (RELATING TO EQUAL RIGHTS) NOVEMBER 12, 2013 the legacy of his father Liloa. These concubines of the Ali‘i were said to have laid with the Chief Umi to gain the trust between his closest warriors to ensure their alliance in war. Even Kamehameha the Great, who united these islands, had ‘Ai Kāne. This was an accepted part of ancient Hawaiian society. Only after western contact, the arrival of the missionaries in 1820 and the fall of the Kāpu system did the ‘Ai Kāne become an outcast in their own land. Many of our old customs, traditions and culture were abolished as was our language and our hula. As the Hawaiian renaissance of the 1970ʻs gave birth to a rediscovery of our native cultural heritage, language and dance, an interestingly overlooked component of Hawaiian culture, heavily influenced by outside cultures, has degraded the importance and meaning of sex and more specifically same sex relationships, in the history and culture of Hawai‘i. For example calling someone “Mahu” to a local was like calling someone from the mainland a “Haole”. If this renaissance is to be fully honest with its past, it's important to recognize all the aspects of the native indigenous people's history. On August 21, 1959, Hawai‘i became the 50th State of the United States of America. Our Country was only 183 years old, slavery had been abolished by the 13th amendment, women were given the right to vote but the seeds of racial inequality were brewing in the South. The lodge stone of the American dream, written by our founding fathers on the declaration meant to stand the test of time was about to be tested. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
  3. 3. SENATOR GIL KAHELE SB1 HD1 (RELATING TO EQUAL RIGHTS) NOVEMBER 12, 2013 In 1962 as a young United States Marine, I got an assignment for training in the South. My destination was the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. After a brief stop in St. Louis to visit my brother, I continued through the southern states passing through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. As a young Hawaiian man passing through the South, the first thing I noticed was the black man was treated differently than the white man. Restaurants, bathrooms and waiting areas at the bus terminals were all segregated. Signs that read “Whites Only” were commonplace and I didn't know at the time if that also included me. At those stops, I looked the other way and continued on to North Carolina, but that experience coming from Hawai‘i, the land of Aloha, had a profound effect on the way I viewed and treated others especially those of minority. At a very early age, I realized that everyone in this country has a right to be treated fairly, to be given equal opportunities, equal rights, to treat others the way you would want to be treated, with dignity, respect and humility. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sacrifices of Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, his brother Senator Robert Kennedy, just to name a few, paved the way for so many others, myself included. It is my belief that the issue before this chamber, to grant marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples is of equal magnitude. It is a decision that rests in our hands, the elected representatives of this great State, as has been many other issues that have come before previous legislatures in the past. It is cemented by the United States Supreme Court decision this summer that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional that you cannot discriminate against same sex couples and deny them the rights and benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. In this chamber there are 24 Democrats and 1 Republican. And although we all don’t agree on everything, I respect the beliefs and values of each member of this Senate, including my colleague from Hawai’i Kai, even though I may at times disagree with your various positions. However, my return to North Carolina, for a once in a lifetime trip to the Democratic National Convention last year highlighted what it means to ME to be a Democrat. A side note, who would have thought 50 years later I would be sitting less than 50 feet away from the President of the United States of America, our nation's first African American President, Barack Obama, a true keiki o ka ‘āina who was born within the confines of Kapi‘olani Hospital. I distinctively recall our First Lady Michelle Obama
  4. 4. SENATOR GIL KAHELE SB1 HD1 (RELATING TO EQUAL RIGHTS) NOVEMBER 12, 2013 saying if you want to get to know my husband, go to Hawai‘i. As Democrats we are guided by our National Platform which in 2012 was titled “Moving America Forward.” In that platform is a section on “Protecting Rights and Freedoms” and under “Civil Rights” it says, “We believe in an America where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody plays by the same rules." At the core of the Democratic Party is the principle that no one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability status. We support the right of all families, to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under the law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.” As Democrats, this is our platform. This is our guide, our compass. We should strive to uphold this even though it may at times conflict with our moral compass and values. Senators this vote that each and every one of us is about to take, I truly believe, will be written in the history books as one of the most important votes in this Legislative chamber's history. Senators the time has come. Their time has come. It is time that the “Aloha State” join the other 14 States in this union on its path to marriage equality. What began with Justice Levinson and the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court's ruling twenty years ago that reverberated through our Country has come full circle today. Kekahi i kekahi. It is time we have “Aloha” for All. Mahalo.

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