Friday, February 11, 2011

House approves Civil Unions bill on third reading

The House voted 31-19 during third reading in floor session to pass Senate Bill 232, SD1, HD1, legislation that would allow same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into a civil union, which would give them equal rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples. Because of minor changes made to the bill in the House, it will now go back to the Senate for agreement and upon agreement to the Governor for signature.

Several members of the House stood to support or oppose the bill and provide comments. Below are the floor comments from two of our House members. 

Rep. Chris Lee, District 51 - Lanikai, Waimanalo (Support)
In 1968, a year after interracial marriage was legalized, just 20 percent of the American public approved of such relationships. Yet, look how far we have come.
I don’t know how elected leaders who opposed interracial marriage, voted against civil rights, or fought against women’s suffrage can look their grandchildren in the eyes today and say that opposing these cornerstones of freedom and equality was the right thing to do.

We are elected by doing what is popular, but we will be remembered for doing what is right. Unfortunately, history shows that what is popular and what is right are rarely one in the same.

Like so many others, I wasn’t old enough to vote on this issue in 1998. Fortunately, generational change has brought a majority of residents in Hawai‘i to support the individual freedoms protected by this bill, and that makes our job today a little bit easier.

Our generation is not afraid of those who are different than us, or those whom we may not understand. I look forward to getting married, knowing that my marriage will be as strong as my commitment to it, and no one else can diminish that.

We all have family, friends and neighbors who are gay. They have always lived in our society, and they 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. They will continue to raise children whether we pass this bill or not.

But we have an obligation to pass this bill and see that everyone is treated equally and fairly under the law in this great state, where it is self-evident that each of us is created equal, endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and I know of no one who can be happy when kept apart from the one they love.

We cannot in Hawai‘i, cherish diversity, yet let it divide us. We cannot, in our communities, preach tolerance, yet remain intolerant. We cannot, in this chamber, speak of equality, then turn our backs upon it.

Mr. Speaker, one day I will look my grandchildren in the eyes and tell them I did the right thing. I vote yes.

Rep. John Mizuno, District 30 - Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter (Opposition)

Excerpts from Rep. Mizuno’s floor comments:
I stand in opposition to this measure…Some of us have been called a bigot and hater because of our “no” vote. We are not. We have family and friends who are recognized in the GLBT segment of our community. We have no hate nor disdain for our people – for the people of Hawaii…My “no” representative my steadfast commitment and understanding of our God and his word… I mean no disrespect to any religion or faith-based organization…Finally, after this measure becomes law – I respectfully ask our church members and our members of the GLBT to work together, united for the betterment of our communities – our State. I ask that we all end the rhetoric and display restraint and love to everyone.

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