GOING FOR THE GUSTO: To hear the talk from the churchies last May there was fire and brimstone a’comin’ at the polls for those legislators who voted to make gays and lesbians first class citizens– albeit with a “civil union” asterisk- when it comes to the rights bestowed in marriage.
But a look at the results of Saturday’s elections shows that not only was the bigot community’s empty threat to “remember those who voted yes to Bill 444 in election day” given way too much credence by the media, but also by the legislators themselves- most of whom, if you’ll remember, had conniption fits to keep from voting on the record until being forced to do so on the last day of the session.
But a few key races show that not only were some who voted “aye” not punished but those who voted “no” were.
Of course on Kaua`i one of those “no” votes, Roland Sagum, was not just ousted by an unknown, Dee Morikawa, but lost in a landslide. Morikawa won with 55.2% of the vote to Sagum’s 37.8% and another 7.0% left their vote blank, always an indication of dissatisfaction with the incumbent.
The funny thing there is that, in talking to westsiders over the past few days, we haven’t really been able to find any other reasons for Sagum’s dismissal other than that he just “did do anything”- that and, to some extent and for those who even knew about it, his recent representation of an unpopular projects by a North Shore developer before the planning commission.
Even though Sagum’s 16th district of the south and west sides of Kaua`i is known to be more conservative than the north and east sides the talk last May of the vote on 444 being a key to proponents’ votes was apparently indicative of the result.
Perhaps THE key race was between the openly gay introducer of HB 444, Representative Blake Oshiro and the leader of the religious homophobes, former Honolulu Councilpersons Gary Okino who specifically ran against Oshiro over the civil unions bill.
Oshiro similarly trounced Okino 53.3% to 42.0% with 10 0.2% blank.
Both statewide races also went the way of HB 444 proponents.
Former Congressperson Neil Abercrombie, who said he’s sign it in a minute, crushed Mufi Hannemann who, although he hemmed and hawed, was seen as opposing civil unions. The last minute push- or punch as it turned out- to get Republicans to crossover to the more “righteous” Mufi coming from the head of the Hawai`i Republican Party, nutso bible thumper and Kaua`i boy, Jonah Ka`auwai, is seen by many as cinching Hannemann’s rout.
Finally there was the lieutenant governor’s race where Brian Schatz, a civil rights proponent who said unequivocally that he supported 444, trounced the two biggest anti-civil rights members of the state senate, former Senators Bobby Bunda- who successfully blocked the bill in committee only to see it “ripped” to the floor- and Norman Sakamoto who made opposition to civil rights his signature issue.
Not only did Schatz win in what can be considered a landslide in a plurality vote with 34.8% of the vote to Bunda’s 19.2% and Sakamoto’s 18.5% but former Senator Gary Hooser- who made his support of the bill his top issue in ads- led the pack of also-rans pulling in 9.5% of the vote.
With the other candidates for lt. governor also supportive of civil unions, the anti civil rights voters accounted for only 37 .7% of the vote.
But let’s not forget that while “civil unions” was adopted by the progressive community as the fight du jour at last year’s legislative session it is still just another way to treat gays and lesbians as second-class citizens. And it may well be a moot issue as the “Prop 8” case recently decided in federal district court wends it’s way to the 9th Circuit appellate court where a decision upholding full same gender marriage would be binding on Hawai`i.
If we learned one thing this year it’s that these religion-addled bigots will see that any attempt to secure people’s right to love anyone they want is turned into some idiotic “sanctity of marriage” argument. Despite common wisdom of the past decade there are apparently few, if any, that are for civil unions but against same gender marriage.
The court’s decision may or may not come before next May but it’s time to decide whether to fight for full civil rights in this year’s legislature based on the results last Saturday and presumably in November where a landslide Abercrombie victory over religious nutcase Duke Aiona is likely.
That decision is, well, way above our paygrade. But those who are planning strategy for the ’11 legislative session would do well to take the legislative and election results to heart, stop pushing an incremental, fear-based agenda and reach for the brass ring.