by Kiersten Masayoshi
Are conservatives already letting elected officials off the hook too easily?
Public opposition to same sex marriage during special session centered in Central and Leeward Oahu. If you look at the votes in the state House, most of the representatives from Central and Leeward Oahu voted against the bill. This year, those same representatives are mostly seeing only liberal opposition to their re-elections. But, are conservatives making a mistake assuming that everyone who voted “no” to same sex marriage shares their values? Possibly. There are a few representatives – mainly from Central Oahu - that stood up for religious freedom and traditional values when everyone was looking, but what did they do when no one was watching?
Let’s first take a look at House Bill 1624 from 2014 - Hawaii’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - that would have helped protect the religious freedom of churches and individuals. This bill had a lot of public support, but the powers that be in the legislature wouldn’t give it a hearing. With 18 votes, House members that wanted the bill to have a hearing voted to “recall” the bill from committee or, in laymen’s terms, keep it alive so it could get a hearing. However, after these members successfully voted to keep the bill alive, the House Majority Leader motioned to “recommit” the bill to committee or, in laymen’s terms, send the bill back to committee where it would die. Only 14 House members voted against recommitting the bill. So, four members of the House voted to kill the bill within minutes of voting to revive it – Aquino, Cullen, Kawakami & Yamane. Can we honestly say that these men are standing up for religious freedom?
Let’s look at another bill. House Bill 411 from 2013 would require religious hospitals to administer emergency contraceptives or “Plan B” pills regardless of whether or not administering these pills violated their religious beliefs. Only 7 House members voted against this bill because it infringed on these organizations freedom of religion even when there were other alternative care options. Where were the rest of the representatives that were standing up for religious freedom during the same sex marriage debate? We know at least two of them – Aquino & Cullen – left the floor to avoid the vote.
These are just a couple of examples suggesting that conservatives may want to rethink giving some of these representatives a pass in this election cycle. If organizations (again, mainly from Leeward & Central Oahu) that stirred up testifiers for the same sex marriage debate want change, they should be looking at a more complete picture of each representative before they give them their stamp of approval.
With a little over a week before candidate filing deadline, none of these representatives have strong challengers. Cullen & Aquino don’t have any conservative challengers. Yamane is running against someone whose candidacy managed to strengthen rather than weaken Yamane in the last election. And, let’s not forget, Cabanilla – the only representative to leave the floor to avoid voting on same sex marriage – still has no real opposition from a conservative.
Kiersten, a former educator, has resided in Hawaii for over 30 years in various locations around Leeward and Central Oahu. Though always politically-minded, she has found herself increasingly engaged in local politics within the past few years.
How They Voted: House Rejects Religious Freedom Restoration Act
VIDEO: Cabanilla Hammered for Refusal to Defend Marriage
May 19, 2014: Election Commission Releases Updated Candidate List