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HI-Gov: Help a Major LGBT Rights Battleground State!

Hawaii has been one of the most important battleground states for the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians. In 1992, gay couples sued for the right to marry. It ended up in the Hawaii State Supreme Court and they ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that it’s unconstitutional to deny marriage rights to same sex couples. Shortly after that, the state amended their constitution to ban marriage for same sex couples, and then Rep. Bob Barr wrote the Defense of Marriage Act. A majority of Republicans and Democrats signed on to help pass the act – which denied federal recognition and benefits to same sex couples and told states they didn’t have to recognize marriages from other states.

This past year Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill for gays and lesbians because it was too similar to marriage. This naturally caused a lot of pain in the gay community, not just for Hawaiians but for those of us who know the history of the same sex marriage movement. Hawaii was not the first state to try this but it was the one which led to the unconstitutional and unfair DOMA law.

Now there’s a governor’s race coming up, and the Democratic primary is on Sept. 18th. One candidate is pro-gay, the other is not. Let’s help the right person win.

The HRC has endorsed Neil Abercrombie in this race:

Washington – Today the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – announced the endorsement of former U.S. Representative Neil Abercrombie running in the Democratic primary for Governor of Hawaii. Abercrombie has a stellar record on LGBT equality in contrast to his opponent, Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has indicated his opposition to full equality on issues affecting LGBT citizens.

“Neil Abercrombie is a true friend of equality,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “There is no doubt that as Hawaii’s next governor, Neil Abercrombie will fight every day for all the people of Hawaii, including its LGBT citizens. His voting record in Congress demonstrates he always acts with courage and conviction for what is right.”

Their endorsement goes on to say that Abercrombie has a 100% record on their gay rights scorecard. He supported the civil unions bill and hoped that Gov. Lingle wouldn’t veto it. He says if he wins the governorship he will happily sign it into law, should it come up again for a vote.

It’s not marriage, but it’s not a veto, either. We need a victory like this for the LGBT community with the way things are going right now. I’ll take what I can get. And even though he says that he’ll sign it "if it reaches his desk", once he’s in office, I’m sure he could be pressured to get a bill to his desk. We don’t have to end our work with the election.

Even marriage is still possible in Hawaii, though. As noted in a comment elsewhere:

The text of the HI anti-gay amendment left the question up to the legislature, and did not actually define marriage. Rather, it granted the legislature the power to limit the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The legislature could still change its mind on the definition of marriage and so the candidates need to be pressured on this specific issue as well as the civil unions bill.

Here’s his record on civil rights from On The Issues:

Voted YES on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Nov 2007)
Voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
Voted NO on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
Voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
Voted NO on protecting the Pledge of Allegiance. (Sep 2004)
Voted NO on constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration. (Jun 2003)
Voted NO on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)
Voted NO on ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions. (May 1998)
Constitutional Amendment for equal rights by gender. (Mar 2001)
Rated 93% by the ACLU, indicating a pro-civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)
Issue a commemorative postage stamp of Rosa Parks. (Dec 2005)
Rated 100% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance. (Dec 2006)
Rated 100% by the NAACP, indicating a pro-affirmative-action stance. (Dec 2006)
Provide benefits to domestic partners of Federal employees. (Dec 2007)
Re-introduce the Equal Rights Amendment. (Mar 2007)
Investigate deportation of Japanese during WWII. (Jan 2009)

Contrast that with his opponent’s statement that he would veto civil unions.

He’s not exactly clear on LGBT issues, seemingly on both sides of a whole host of our concerns:

I then asked Mufi about the Civil Unions bill as he had not, at the time of the interview, issued a detailed response to the veto (Duke & Neil had). I asked specifically if the legislature passed the exact same bill again and it was on his desk, would he sign.

Mufi replied that he will "roll up his sleeves" and work with the legislature to craft a bill. He will make sure the legislature will "understand my concerns and what my parameters are" and he will work to understand their concerns and parameters. He will try to come up with a bill that is mutually acceptable. He then followed up with "if that doesn’t happen [mutually acceptable bill] I’m very open to throwing it on the ballot." He also stated that marriage must be between a man and a woman, but then followed up that he very much wants to end discrimination due to sexual orientation.

I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of this. You’re either for passing and signing a civil unions bill or you’re not. I don’t know what "parameters" would be involved and it seems like this is weasel wording to get out of signing it if he is elected.

We really need a win this year, especially since we’re looking at major Democratic losses. Let’s try to keep LGBT friendly people in offices all around the country and help move our issues, or at least the discussion, forward.

Scottie Thomaston (indiemcemopants) is a 26-year-old Alabama blogger who has written about politics on various blogs since age seventeen. A disabled, ‘out’ gay man, his principal themes have been LGBT rights, torture, NSA spying and the challenges of disability. His pieces have appeared on Daily Kos (where he also moderates a community series on disability), Firedoglake; and on his own blog, "Ignorance is…" The quality of his writing earned him a 2010 Netroots Nation scholarship from Democracy For America and a citation in the New York Times Opinionator column. He is actively building his career as a professional new media journalist.

You can find him on Twitter: @indiemcemopants

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I'm 26. I'm a writer at DailyKos, DocuDharma, my own blog, and now here. I'm gay and disabled. At DailyKos I moderate the KosAbility series on Wednesdays at 5PM Eastern. I participate in the GLBT and Friends at DailyKos and in their newly launched blog.

I write about gay issues and disability issues a lot but I'm not limited to those two topics by any means.

I live in Alabama. Yes you're right, that sucks.