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Friday, February 18, 2011

Congratulations Hawaii on Securing Civil Unions!

By Gloria Nieto -

Equality has spread across the Pacific and the Aloha state legislature has made civil unions and LGBT equality part of the beautiful landscape of Hawaii.  As always, there is a lot of work that was done to make this tropical dream a reality for another state. Wednesday, after many efforts in the legislature, both houses of the Hawaiian legislature passed SB 232 [previously HB 444] which recognizes civil unions.  Ceremonies on the beach anyone?

This is part of a report from my friend, Van Law, [from Pride Alliance Hawaii] who I met at Hula’s bar. He was wearing a No H8 tshirt. It was love at first sight.
There were so many opportunities between 2009 and now for the civil unions bill to flounder, but it was through the steadfast commitment by a tireless individuals and a handful of key organizations that the bill survived and eventually passed in 2010 and again in 2011.
Initially, the bill’s supporters comprised of a loosely knit coalition of many individuals and some partner organizations. During the heat of the legislative battle, advocates met every week at the UNITE HERE Local 5 union headquarters for hours to go over strategy. The coalition targeted many fronts in the war for equality with some members focusing on lobbying, while others focused on public education. In the last week of April of 2009, the advocates collected over 10,000 signatures petitioning the legislature to pass HB444.
After 2009, the individual members formed new organizations that specialized in complementary fields of interest. ACLU and Lambda Legal worked together on building a lawsuit that would add pressure for passage of HB444. Pride Alliance Hawaii worked closely with PFLAG Hawaii and members of the Hawaii Democratic GLBT Caucus to create public awareness by holding sign waving in targeted areas within the State of Hawaii, and by going door to door to pass out informational pamphlets to the constituents of key legislators. Equality Hawaii and the Human Rights Campaign focused on lobbying and getting prominent people in Hawaii to endorse the bill. Citizens for Equal Rights was created to give a voice to our straight allies and they worked to compile a booklet with names and faces of people who support equality. All the organizations worked together to get their members to submit testimony and make contact with their legislators.
The passage of civil unions in Hawaii truly required a collaborative effort and no single organization can claim responsibility for the victory. The advocates were successful because they had good allies in the House (Rep. Blake Oshiro) and in the Senate (Sen. Gary Hooser and Sen. Les Ihara Jr.), and the multiple organizations were able to coexist without working against one another.
On this very exciting day, Pride Alliance Hawaii would like to thank all of the organizations and individuals for their passion and commitment to supporting LGBT equality in Hawaii. We are proud and honored to be part of such a wonderful victory.
In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Today, those fighting for equality in Hawaii proved these words to be true.”

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