POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2011
Faith asks a great deal of us. We are expected to see what is not necessarily visible, and hear and understand that which is ineffable.
That capacity to see and hear with both faith and conscience lies at the heart of the quest for equal rights for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) families. But unlike the faiths that so many of us profess, the quest for equal rights for LGBT families is supported by what our eyes can see and our ears can hear -- if our hearts are open.
As a civil unions bill makes its way through Hawaii's Legislature, hopes are high that the LGBT community's call for equality will finally be heard.
LGBT couples and families for years have asked that their repeated, anguished calls for an end to discrimination and for equal treatment under the law be heard. Too often their experience has been something akin to that of the frustrated caller on a bad phone connection, yelling "Can you hear me now?"
Perhaps the question they should have been asking is, "Can you see me now?"
For those who cannot see fellow human beings deserving of full dignity and rights in their LGBT family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, help is available.
Go to www.hawaiifamilyportraits.org. You'll be able to visit with a wide spectrum of families in Hawaii whose stories are told in beautiful, text-supported photographs by Mike Ang. From native Hawaiians to people from far away who have made Hawaii home; from an associate justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court to new immigrants; from growing up as targets of bullying to building mutually supportive professional lives; from becoming a committed couple to enlarging the family to welcome children. They are people in our community who are paying taxes, raising children, living useful lives. And they all want what everyone wants: equality.
To meet men and women, children and families of another state where the rocky road to justice did end in jubilation, go to www.CourtingEquality.org. Or better still, buy the book.
It is hard to flip through the book quickly because the evocative pictures by Marilyn Humphries make you linger on the love and solidarity that shines through. Every picture tells a story of the strong bonds of family or the innocence of children who have not learned discrimination. But shadowing these images of happy couples and families are messages of discrimination and of non-recognition, non-seeing, too.
Throughout this story of Massachusetts' ground-breaking journey to equality written by Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn, the invitation to "see" and the desire to "be seen" keeps recurring.
The biggest factor in the huge shift in attitude in society with more and more people believing in equal rights for gays, is, according to the authors, "the individual decisions by millions of gay men and lesbians to come out -- that is to openly identify themselves to family, friends and colleagues."
In other words, like women, like African-Americans, like indigenous peoples, LGBT people asked to be seen.
In 2003, the Supreme Court declared in Lawrence v. Texas that "when homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the state, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination in both the public and private spheres."
Gozemba's and Kahn's interpretation of the significance of this ruling is framed in terms of seeing. They see the scales falling from the eyes of the justices: "For the first time, the highest court in the nation saw gay men and lesbians as whole human beings whose sexual orientation could not be used to diminish their humanity."
We have the opportunity in Hawaii to let those same scales fall and look at the world and our LGBT friends and family through the clarifying lens of aloha.