Civil Rights HI Politics

Civil Unions May be Coming to Hawaii…. Soon

Yesterday was a good day.  i left work early and made my way to the capitol to take part in and be witness to the house judiciary committee’s hearing on civil unions, hb444.

Since the end of 2007, I’ve been working with the Family Equality Coalition. The FEC is the brainchild of a number of activists who were disappointed and disillusioned after the 2007 hearing on civil unions. The FEC, while now part of a broader coalition that includes some unions, faith groups, college and community organization, was instrumental in the early stages of this process.

In December PDH officially became a member organization of the FEC….

The testimony given during the four hour hearing was overwhelmingly in support of the bill; I’d say by a 2-1 margin, at least. Of course, the bill and the GLBT community do have their opponents and some of them were there, though really only one or two of them I found out right offensive.

As the afternoon turned into evening, the committee took a short recess before coming back to take the vote. now, in 2007 things had gone, in my recollection, similarly to yesterday; a majority of the testimony was supportive and as such, I left before the end only to wake up the next morning to learn it never came out of committee. i didn’t want that experience again and so i couldn’t bring myself to leave until i saw the conclusion for myself.

There were a few committee members who weren’t present for the vote, but everyone present, including republicans, voted to pass the bill out of committee. The crowd burst into applause, cheers, and a standing ovation. Needless to say, there was a lot of hugging and crying. At the time i just had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride for all the hard work that had paid off.

My teary, heartfelt reaction didn’t come until the following morning; as I sat down to write an email to all my friends who had submitted testimony. Sitting and thinking about the reaction from so many of my friends and colleagues, those that had been waging this battle for so many years, I can’t help but get a bit misty.

I think about my friend and former boss, Lance Bateman, whose husband, Bill Woods, died last year. I think about how hard its been for him and how bill was the one who got the ball rolling here on this issue in the 90s and how happy and proud he would have been to witness yesterday’s result. I would have loved to celebrate with him.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so proud to be a part of something as I was yesterday. While the civil unions/marriage issue in no way directly affects my life, I can marry, I feel very strongly about this issue as a matter of human and civil rights. Our state and our country are currently treating these people as second class citizens and while civil unions are not the final solution, they are an enormous step toward marriage and full equality.

As we look to the senate next, we know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but now that we have that small taste of victory, I suspect our ranks will grow. We will become even more determined. Hell, we might even be able to start raising substantial funds.

We’ve still got a ways, but what a fantastic first step. I look forward to continuing the work on this important issue. I hope you will join us.

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