10 Faces of Hawaii's Gay Marriage Debate
On Thursday, state House Judiciary and Finance committees heard public testimony on the bill that would allow same-sex marriage. A lot of testimony. As of 4:30 p.m., almost 4,000 people had pre-registered to testify, and lawmakers anticipated hearing public testimony until midnight.
We spent some time at the Capitol, talking with people on both sides of the issue to find out what inspired them to show up.
Photos: Diane Lee
Rebeca Stancie, 26, cut her organic chemistry lab class to be at the state Capitol. She stood along Beretania Street, repeatedly shouting into her megaphone: “LET THE PEOPLE VOTE!”
“I was lesbian and somehow I found the lord. I went to church and I got deliverance from the homosexual spirit. It is a spirit of homosexuality that lives inside of you and if you want to be loose of that spirit, you just got to want it and it is going to release you,” she says.
James Patrick, 44, didn’t plan to stop by the state Capitol until the sign wavers caught his attention. He decided to join others along Beretania Street. Patrick stood next to gay marriage opponent sign wavers, pranced around in his wedding dress and black afro wig, and threw shakas to drivers.
“Serendipity. I was actually getting on TheBus and this is my Halloween costume and I decided to come by and join the right wing. I’m totally for [gay marriage]. How could I not be? I’ve got a wedding dress on and pubic hair on my head,” he says.
Kealaheleikapo Taua, 48, calls himself "a spiritual messenger for Hawaii." He disagrees with the legislative proposal to allow gay couples to wed in the state.
“Marriage is between man and woman. …Gay marriage is not hawa, or not pono, not right. Don’t come here to disturb our [Hawaiian] culture and laws,” he says.
As a Christian, Yolanda Yamamoto, 60, also believes in preserving the traditional bond of marriage between a man and woman.
“I am married and I was a widow at 33 and God blessed me with another husband. I had seven children. He had seven children. So together, we have 14 children, 32 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. And we teach them all principles of life. I am not against the gay people or same-sex marriage. Whatever they do is up to them. As a Christian, I believe that we should be a man and a woman, married," she says.
Krista Steinfeld and Alanaaupo Jellings
Alanaaupo Jellings, 29, and Krista Steinfeld, 32, got married this summer, and on Thursday showed up to wave signs along Beretania Street to show their support for gay marriage.
“Anybody should have the right to marry. I am a mahu; a transman. When we got together, we were a gay couple. But now we are perceived as a straight couple, but whatever it is, all the labels don’t matter, because everybody should have the right to love each other. … I don’t think anybody should be withheld that privilege and civil right,” Jellings says.
“We have to out ourselves if we want people to think we’re queer, otherwise they just think we’re straight, which is fine. … For us, our personal journey really brings home how arbitrary a lot of the categories are,” Steinfeld says.
Holding up a sign “ONLY 1 MAN + WOMAN = MARRIAGE,” Chrystal Crawley, 40, says she has been in heated arguments with gay marriage supporters at the Capitol. She opposes gay marriage legislation, because she believes there is a “hidden agenda.”
“I feel that to bring homosexuality into the education realm and kind of openly talking to our children about it, one, it's wrong, but two, that is teaching them human extinction. In homosexuality, you cannot procreate. You cannot reproduce in any manner. It takes a male sperm and female egg to create a baby. There is no getting around that. That is not religion. That is science. That is life. That is nature,” she says.
Monique Chang, 34, spent most of the day at work, but she’s been paying close attention to the legislative hearing. She joined her church family at the Capitol shortly after getting off work around 4 p.m. She submitted testimony, hoping for a chance to testify in the House committee.
“No. 1, I love God and I know what is right. And [No.] 2, I feel like this would change my freedom, my constitutional rights, my freedom of speech, my freedom of religion. The rights that I would have to serve or not to serve a certain type of person,” she says.
Michael Golojuch, Jr.
After listening to hours of testimony, Michael Golojuch, Jr., 40, wanted a breather, so he took a smoking break outside the Capitol.
“I’ve been here since a little after 10:30. I was here all day Monday. I will be here until this bill is done. I am the chair of the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. The Democratic Party stands fully behind this bill, as does the caucus, of course. It is the right time and it is the right place. We’ve waited long enough,“ he says.
Sitting inside the Capitol rotunda, Dan Abrahamsson, 57, held up a homemade sign declaring, “I BELIEVE IN THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. I DON’T BELIEVE IN MOB RULE.” He wanted to show his support for gay marriage, in the hope that he could sway others.
“The opponents of this bill, they want to have a popular vote on this issue. And we know from the whole civil rights history that a popular vote has never been good regarding civil rights. We don’t want it to be like Ku Klux Klan, where people were mobbed out and hung because they were thinking or acting differently. So that’s why I’m here. I believe in the constitution, and the representatives that we have elected are better educated to make more unbiased decisions about this issue,” he says.
Read our previous coverage:
Hawaii House committee to accept same-sex marriage testimony until midnight Oct. 31
Hawaii lawmakers begin debating same-sex marriage legislation