As a former member of the state House of Representatives, Blake Oshiro, a Democrat, was instrumental in crafting and passing civil unions legislation.
It included the bill that was vetoed in 2010 by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, and the bill that was signed into law in 2011 by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat.
Oshiro is now Abercrombie’s deputy chief of staff. Civil Beat spoke with him Thursday about President Barack Obama’s announcement that he now supports gay marriage.
Oshiro did not speak on behalf of the Abercrombie administration, which is currently a co-defendant in a lawsuit, Jackson v. Abercrombie, which challenges Hawaii’s ban on same sex marriage.
Abercrombie has acknowledged many of the complaint’s allegations, including the denial of federal constitutional rights. Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Health has denied many of the complaint’s allegations.
Civil Beat: As the chief architect of Hawaii’s civil unions law, what was your reaction to the president’s announcement that he now supports gay marriage?
Blake Oshiro: I was very, very pleased with it. I think that his statement, it speaks for itself — how he said his views have evolved. I think that evolution is reflective of many, many people out there, so I am hopeful.
How do you think it might play out locally? Do you think we could be looking at same-sex marriage legislation in Hawaii?
There has always been legislation that has been introduced. The question has always been, how politically viable is it? I think the wrinkle in that equation now is the lawsuit, because now people will say, one, why should we do it legislatively if we have to wait for the courts, or, the flip side is, why should we wait for the courts — we should just do it.
I don’t know if the lawsuit changes the dynamics much, but I am not sure that the president coming out necessarily changes the political landscape in the Legislature that much.
You did have, however, Sens. Inouye and Akaka and Congresswoman Hirono and other top Democrats saying quite frankly, quite openly, that it is time for gay marriage. Do you think that kind of powerful voice, if you will, coming from our top leaders may persuade folks locally?
My impression is that, the more people speak out in favor and are willing to become part of what I feel is the more silent majority, then at that point it encourages further discussion and delving into the issue. Which I think is always a good thing. Any time you elevate it through high-profile individuals or political leaders — or leaders of our state and country speaking out in favor of it — I think that encourages people to really start looking at the issue and talking about it.
Do you see within our lifetime gay marriage becoming legal not only in Hawaii but the country?
I think so. When you look at the trending, at least in polling, especially when you see the attitude differential between people that are under 40 versus people that are over 60, generally, then it really is just a matter of time.
But, to expand about the question you had about Obama, whether that changes much politically …
I mean, it also includes Laura Bush and Dick Cheney on the Republican side, though Linda Lingle and Charles Djou said nothing yesterday … But almost every Democrat, with the exception of Mufi Hannemann, said, ‘Yeah, we’re on board.”
Yes, it will effect things politically here. In November we’ll see how it all plays out.
But I think that, just in terms of the issue itself, when it came to civil unions, President Obama had no problem with civil unions. But that didn’t make it easier to pass in Hawaii.
Ha-ha. That’s a good point.
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