Thirty-three to 29 — that was the vote June 24 in Albany, N.Y., where that state’s Senate voted to approve a bill for marriage equality. In the hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill, details of how this monumental piece of legislation was ultimately passed began to surface, clearly revealing that success was in part due to bipartisan compromise — the Republican-led Senate allowed a vote on a measure that most of them were opposed to, but which a few were instrumental in supporting. Hawaii, too, depended on similar bipartisan support within the Legislature when it passed civil unions legislation this year; both states realized what should have been clear to begin with: Treating law-abiding, tax-paying families and individuals equally is a common-sense goal we can all agree on.
Equality Hawaii also recognizes and supports this ethic, and purposefully supports candidates of both political parties in an effort to remove the partisan, divisive, litmus test politics surrounding marriage equality. We hope this can soon be the reality within which our political parties function — we believe this is an increasingly common trend, and we intend to aggressively support it.
While both dominant political parties use "marriage equality" as a rallying point for their bases, by doing so they rob the public of focusing on issues that really matter to them — like balancing the budget, securing a living wage, improving public education, improving access to health care and making our communities safer. These are the issues that deserve our common attention, and that require public servants to concentrate on.
New York’s decision to expand marriage to include same-sex couples is one more example of a changing view on marriage politics in this country — one which we believe to be positive. Consider last May’s Washington Post/ABC News poll that showed 53 percent of those Americans surveyed support marriage equality.
As the 2012 elections dawn on our state, we hope voters and community leaders from all political parties will move beyond divisive politics and actively support those who will treat law-abiding, tax-paying families equally. Local candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District, for the U.S. Senate and in reapportioned districts must step up and lead on equality by elevating the discourse and focusing on equal treatment of citizens rather than delving into the antiquated hyper-conservative rhetoric of elections past. Many have already done this, and we hope more will do so in the future. This is extraordinary progress on an issue that a decade ago was seen as a serious political liability.
Equality Hawaii, and its more than 6,500 members, will work to hold candidates and elected leaders to a higher standard of discourse, and in the process improve the prospect for full equality for Hawaii’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.
This was submitted by Equality Hawaii board members Jacce Mikulanec, Valerie Smith, Alan Spector and Gary Okabayashi.