Dear Neighbors:

Well, it’s been a year. Twelve months ago, after a long and bitterly contentious special legislative session, marriage equality became the law of the land in Hawaii. For those of us who benefitted from this historic legislation, it’s been transformative: Nearly 1,900 same-sex marriages were performed in Hawaii from Dec. 2June 20, and with between 126 and 221 marriages performed each of those months, it’s reasonable to expect that at least 500 have been added to that total since June.

That means at least 4,800 individuals have been allowed to have the most important relationship in their lives blessed and protected by our magnificent state. It means the children of those families are now able to enjoy the sense of security and permanence that can accrue when parents have solemnified their relationship. It means that these couples and families now are able to enjoy the same benefits, rights and responsibilities that opposite-sex married couples have had for generations, bringing us one step closer to the equality promised us in the U.S. Constitution.

Gay Marriage Supporter Celebrates PF

A gay marriage supporter celebrates passage of same-sex marriage legislation at the Hawaii State Capitol.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

My family is one of those. My husband and I were among the first in line for a marriage license last December. We celebrated 17 years together by marrying just before the year’s end in a simple ceremony at our home, our two sons at our side. Our youngest boy — only 9 at the time — was so moved, he wept for joy for his dads and for his family. And we have many friends whose marriage stories are every bit as rich and lovely.

Some of you protested the LGBT community’s pursuit of marriage equality last fall at the Capitol with angry shouting and unfortunate insults. I spoke to one of your pastors early this year, and was grateful to hear his heartfelt apology for the regrettable language aimed at LGBT individuals during the special session; it gave me hope for what might be possible in the future.

During the mid-term election cycle that concluded last Tuesday night, there were unfortunately more demeaning comments and threats that “the people will remember in November.” In at least seven legislative races as well as the governor and lieutenant governor races, candidates motivated to run by their anger over the special session sought revenge for a bill that didn’t go their way. No small number of times, we heard once again the chant repeated endlessly at the Capitol last fall: Let the people vote.

Well, they voted. And in nearly every instance, from Duke Aiona and Elwin Ahu to Senate and House races around the state, candidates who stood against marriage equality lost, typically by sizable margins.  Those who stood for marriage equality won decisively, across the board, in nearly every competitive race. Voters around the state had a chance to recall the dire predictions and harsh pronouncements about what marriage equality would do to Hawaii and see that, at the end of the day, the scary claims really didn’t hold much water.

The hard part is behind us.  The path ahead is one we can travel together peacefully.

Change can be hard. Sometimes it’s scary; often, you don’t know what to expect. But we’re past that part. We know now what to expect: Happy brides and grooms, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. A community that is being lifted up, recognized and respected. A social fabric for our state that is stronger, more inclusive and more vibrant than it was before.

And so, I ask you: May we all move on? May we summon our better angels to respect the settled law that is marriage equality in Hawaii, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to bring peace and kindness to our islands rather than discord and division? Even if we do not agree with our neighbor’s circumstances, may we still meet her/him with respect, with courtesy, with aloha?

I typically don’t presume to speak for Hawaii’s wonderfully diverse LGBT community, but on this, I’ll take a very small risk and say that as for us, we are all interested in moving on. We bear you no animus. We ask nothing of you, and are ready to greet you with a smile, as any good neighbors ought to be able to do. We extend to you our hands in a spirit of community, recognizing only that to receive them, you must first unclench hands that have been balled in fists or wrapped tightly around picket signs. Each of us and all of us deserves a break, and our state, the Aloha State, need not be torn asunder any more by endless arguments over what you believe and what we believe.

The hard part is behind us.  The path ahead is one we can travel together peacefully. Let’s join one another on that journey.

With warm aloha,

Todd Simmons

 

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author