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Hanabusa, Djou face off in debate

Both candidates support repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy but differ on other issues

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 9:26 p.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010

Although their reasons were different, both U.S. Rep. Charles Djou and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said they support repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars gays from openly serving in the military.

Facing off for the third time in three nights, the two candidates for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District covered an array of topics ranging from gays in the military and same-sex marriage to familiar ground such as restoring trust in government, residency in the district and the recurring issue of government stimulus programs.

Recent polls show Djou, the Republican incumbent congressman, and Hanabusa, the Democratic state Senate president, in a statistical tie.

On gays in the military, Djou said his vote to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" — siding with majority Democrats — was based on pragmatism, not his personal beliefs, noting that he saw soldiers taking advantage of a loophole.

"Soldiers would take a re-enlistment bonus, get a very large, fat check from Uncle Sam and suddenly — when their Reserve unit would get mobilized for Iraq or Afghanistan — just all of a sudden say that they're gay and get out," he said. "I didn't think that was right. I didn't think that was fair."

Hanabusa said she felt the time of "don't ask, don't tell" had come and gone, noting that gay military personnel have told her they do not believe their preference hinders their ability to serve.

"I believe that policy should be repealed," she said.

A federal judge in California this week ordered that the ban on gays openly serving be suspended. The Justice Department has appealed, saying immediate suspension would be too disruptive, although President Barack Obama has said the policy would end under his administration.

On whether the federal government should extend the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, Hanabusa said she felt states would have to make that determination individually, but added, "I also believe that the (U.S.) Supreme Court is going to decide this issue for us."

A federal judge in California in August struck down the state's ban on gay marriage in a case that many expect will ultimately be resolved by the high court.

Djou said he believes unequivocally that marriage "is a union between one man and one woman, period," adding that he also supports the Defense of Marriage Act signed by President Bill Clinton.

"It is something that should be decided by each of the states and I don't believe the federal government should interfere," he said.

Djou won a special election last May to replace Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to concentrate on his run for governor.

Last night's debate was televised live by KITV. They have two more televised debates scheduled next week.

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