Local politicians were scarce at Saturday’s 20th annual gay pride parade and rally in Waikiki.

The few who did attend said they showed up because of their commitment to equality and to celebrating diversity.

“This is a democratic principle of a representative democracy,” said state Rep. Lyla Berg, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor. “As a mother and an educator, I know how important self-esteem is in a young person’s life. It cannot be underestimated.”

State Sen. Gary Hooser, another Democrat in the race for lieutenant governor, said he participates in many parades, including for military veterans and the Fourth of July.

“I think we should all be proud of who we are,” said Hooser.

Missing in action: Candidates Daniel K. Inouye, Charles Djou, Mazie Hirono, Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann, James “Duke” Aiona, Brian Schatz, Robert Bunda, Norman Sakamoto and nearly the entire Honolulu City Council and state Legislature.

Political figures who did turn out in support of gay pride included Dante Carpenter, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, and former congressman Neil Abercrombie, who is running for governor.

Eric Gill, the secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE! Local 5, participated in the parade, as did former Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson, who in 1993 wrote in Baehr v. Lewin that the state needed to demonstrate a “compelling state interest” for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Thanks for coming out today,” Abercrombie said to the audience at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand, the parade’s terminus. He then laughed, catching the apparently unintended double meaning of his greeting.

Abercrombie said he was a “firm believer” that citizens should not have to petition government for equal rights already afforded to others.

“Government should be out in front,” he said.

Michael Golojuch Jr., a coordinator for the Honolulu GLBT Pride Parade, said Gov. Linda Lingle was invited to the event by PFLAG Oahu, the event’s fiscal sponsor, but was traveling in Asia. He added that parade organizers did not want “a surrogate” in the governor’s place.

Golojuch said Lt. Gov. Aiona did not respond to an invitation.

Honolulu Mayor Hannemann was not invited, said Golojuch, because he had yet to officially declare his candidacy for governor when PFLAG — it stands for “parents, family and friends of lesbians and gays” — was scheduling parade events.

Republican Aiona opposes HB 444 while Democrat Hannemann has yet to take an official position.1 Golojuch said Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Jonah Kaauwai declined to attend. (The local GOP also opposes HB 444.)

Honolulu Managing Director Kirk Caldwell gave parade organizers a proclamation … but did not attend.

Very much in attendance, however, were state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, Richard Turbin, an attorney running for Honolulu City Council, Rafael del Castillo, an attorney running in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District, and Blake Oshiro, the primary sponsor of House Bill 444, the civil unions measure, and one of the few openly gay lawmakers in Hawaii.

Karamatsu, another Democrat running for lieutenant governor, voted in favor of HB 444, as did Hooser and Berg.

Berg, accompanied by supporters wearing “Team Berg” T-shirts, told Civil Beat, “I love a parade.”

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