U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has consistently supported gay marriage. But as a 26-year-old, first-time candidate for the state House, the Democrat clarified for voters in Makiki, Tantalus and Manoa that he supported traditional marriage and traditional family values.
The 1998 campaign flier, being circulated now by a Schatz critic, was issued in response to what Schatz called "rumors" about his stand on traditional marriage. The state was engulfed at the time in an emotional and polarizing debate over a constitutional amendment that would have given the Legislature the power to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Schatz opposed the constitutional amendment, leading to criticism that he and other opponents were "anti-family." "Let me clarify my position," he said in the flier. "I support traditional marriage. I support traditional family values.
"I am committed to a solution that preserves traditional marriages without discriminating against minorities or their civil rights."
Schatz also said that he was raised in a family that emphasized traditional family values. He said individual families can shape the character of a community, because "when family traditions and values are honored, society has fewer problems. Crime is reduced. Education is supported. Literacy rates are higher. People are healthier."
Schatz defeated Rep. Sam Aiona, a Republican, in the House campaign. The constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the power to define marriage was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1998. The flier has resurfaced as Schatz campaigns for U.S. Senate, raised by a critic who wants to portray the appointed senator as an appeaser.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is challenging Schatz in the Democratic primary, has changed her stance on gay marriage. She had supported traditional marriage as recently as last year but explained to Democrats last December, when she was applying for the appointment to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, that she favors marriage equality.
"Sen. Schatz has fought to advance equal rights for all throughout his career in public service," Clay Schroers, Schatz’s campaign manager, said in an email. "The 1998 flier from Sen. Schatz’s first campaign plainly states, ‘I am committed to a solution that preserves traditional marriages without discriminating against minorities or their civil rights.’
"It’s disappointing that in this race for the U.S. Senate that Rep. Hanabusa’s campaign deliberately takes a 15-year-old campaign brochure out of context in a sad attempt to mask the fact that she opposed marriage equality in 1998, throughout her career in the Hawaii State Legislature, and all the way until she embarked on this campaign for the U.S. Senate."
The 1998 campaign flier was described this week in a post on Daily Kos, a website popular with liberal activists. A copy was forwarded to the Star-Advertiser by a Schatz critic who asked not to be identified.
Peter Boylan, a Hanabusa campaign spokesman, said that "we are not responsible for sharing Sen. Schatz’s flier, but we hope he’ll take responsibility for the positions he took and expressed to voters."