Friday Hawaii saw the cowardly defeat of House Bill 444, which would have provided equal benefits to same-sex couples. Aside from the crushing and demoralizing defeat by a procedural voice-vote (House members couldn’t even bring themselves to take a roll-call vote on the motion), there is a sad irony in the movement’s most recent defeat. The movement to ensure equal rights to same-sex couples started right here in the early 90’s.
What’s more ironic is the bill’s final death took place in the same chamber that saw its end in the same chamber that passed it just one year ago, merely a single vote shy of a two-thirds majority vote. Yes, the same people that passed the bill so overwhelmingly last year felt the undeniable need to save themselves from perceived losses in the coming elections. Rather than stand on principle, rather than do the honorable thing and grant these residents and citizens the State Supreme Court has said they deserve, our elected officials in the State House of Representatives tucked their tails between their legs and voted to save their jobs.
I admit to some tempering in the last few years of my sense of political right and wrong, but there isn’t a reason, isn’t an excuse that makes what they did OK.
I wasn’t in the gallery when the the death knoll rang for equal rights, but I was watching from my office on the third floor of the Capitol. I saw the tearful and angry faces of my colleagues in the rotunda and in the press and by the end of the day, I was myself both outraged and tearful.
I feel hopeless. I decry the cowards in our legislature and our utterly broken system of government. Privately, I curse at them and am furious. I struggle with how I’m supposed to be gracious and polite when I see them in the halls, when my organization invites them to events. Even the few with whom I’ve begun building friendly relationships I fight the urge to grab them, shake them, and shout. “How could you do this? How could you have done this while claiming to support their cause? How do you sleep at night? How do you look at yourself in the mirror each morning?”
Part of me wants to throw in the towel and take a job selling… something. Another part of me wants to declare the whole system broken, cry “revolution,” and burn it all down. Above all, isn’t government meant to protect the people it serves?