Saturday, November 09, 2013

What Were We Thinking? Hawaiian Version

Marriage-equality legislation staggers along in Honolulu. Yesterday, after many (I think 29) amendment attempts, the House approved the bill, 30 to 19. Next it goes back to the Senate, who had previously voted for it...without these amendments.

The Senate should take it up Tuesday and will almost certainly make it law. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has pens screaming for him to use them and he's ready.

The few amendments that did pass are mostly silly, with one exception. The process in Hawaii mirrored the Connecticut debates and compromises five years ago.

The troublesome change is a fair capitulation to anti-gay clerical types and church pols. It gives loosely religious-institution groups the right to continue discriminating. Even in their for-profit activities, like facility rental, that are open to the public, they can use the we-don't-like-homosexuals trump card. This in effect alters the state public-accommodation laws to allow this.

The other amendments are benign and redundant. The gist is a triple-pinky-swear for clerics. The bill already let them say no to officiating at same-sex weddings. They can play the faith card at will. The amendment specifies that no one can bring any charges or lawsuits if this happens.

Watching hours of testimony before the House committees was stunningly familiar. The queue of several thousand who spoke in opposition did so too predictably. The gist of most was that their personal religious feelings should determine public policy. To the endearing credit of the moderator legislators, they did not ridicule or even point out the illegality and irrationality of those two-minute anti-gay tirades and whines.

Yet in the version tossed back to the Senate, the influence of the haters ("Don't dare call us haters!," they say) and bigots ("I am not a bigot," they say.) is obvious. As it was in CT and elsewhere, when the concessions that moderately impinge on gay rights in order to deliver some equality become part of the law, the anti-gay nasties appear largely placated.

I assume serious control issues here. They had called for defeat of the bill; no. They wanted to go back to the start and do another task force to delay everything for a year or more; no. They wanted every business operator to be able to discriminate as churches still can. In amendment after amendment, they did all they could to weaken the bill; with these few sops as exceptions, no.

Now their death twitch will be a lawsuit to overturn the law as soon as it gets the governor's sig. They simply cannot tolerate democracy. It's every procedure and trick in the book when they don't get to harm and hamper homosexuals. They'll eventually go away wailing. Who knows, they may try what they did here in MA, a ballot initiative and court challenge. Unfortunately for them, Hawaii only allows initiatives on constitutional amendments.

The anti-equality sorts thought they had done that with the vote to give the legislature the right to define and specify who could marry. Well, now that actually happened. They don't like that either.

Raised as a Christian, I remain confused when any religious types, particularly Christians contort to hurt people. They'll very selective go to Leviticus in the Old Testament and Torah to find scripture that supports their bigotry, while ignoring much scripture that would lead them to support equality. Particularly for Christians, they have a whole New Testament and a Messiah who preach against what they are about.

I am pretty sure in a few years and certainly within 10 or 20 that Hawaiians will be proud of their inclusive equality, almost to a person. That's happened elsewhere, as here in MA. When they come to and ask, "What were we thinking?," don't ridicule them. Just be glad they arrived at the right place.

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