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By News Release @ 4:26 PM :: 2209 Views :: Education K-12

‘Leading with Love’ rally applauds legislative support for LGBTQ+ rights

Public school educators join community leaders, legislators at the state Capitol

News Release from HSTA, February 16, 2023

“Dear students, we need you to know you are lovable. You are worthy. You are enough, and you are brave, and you will always be accepted in your classrooms,” ʻIlima Intermediate teacher Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin told LGBTQ+ youth Tuesday.

(EDITOR's NOTE: 'Ilima Int was where alleged child molester and gay socialist activist Alden Bunag was teaching 2016-17.  LINK)

Milianta-Laffin, along with dozens of community leaders, legislators, educators, and supporters, rallied at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol Tuesday for the LGBTQ+ community and celebrated the historic number of LGBTQ-friendly measures introduced in the Hawai‘i State Legislature this session.

Rep. Adrian Tam (D, Waikīkī) recalled the fear he experienced as a child who was not yet out and witnessing violence directed toward the LGBTQ+ community. He pledged his commitment to advancing LGBTQ+ rights today.

He said, “This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court’s decision in support of marriage equality. That progress that we made, that progress gave me the honor of serving as an openly gay man in the Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives, a co-founder in a joint House and Senate Equality Caucus to address the needs of the LGBT+ community.

“I stood on the same floor where we once passed a constitutional amendment to make me a second-class citizen. That is the progress that we made, and we are not going to stop,” Tam said.

Among the bills that are progressing this year:

  • HB 554, which calls for trauma-informed and LGBTQ+ inclusive sexual harassment training in the University of Hawaiʻi system.
  • HB 485, which allows for the replacement of marriage certificates in cases where a spouse has changed their gender, sex and/or name.
  • SB 109 and SB 110, which requires gender-neutral terminology in adoption and divorce.
  • SB 944, which extends and modifies the task force established to recommend amendments to update existing parentage laws, replacing terms such as “mother and father” with gender-neutral terms such as “parents.”

Michael Golojuch, who chairs the Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi, encouraged the public to submit testimony. He said, “Go out and be part of the change. Don’t just show up in these times of desperation, but show up when we need you. We need you here at the Capitol. We need to have your voices in these hearings.

“It’s a lifetime commitment to ensure everything that we have fought for stays and we keep on making those gains to take care of our keiki, to take care of our trans community,” Golojuch said. “We embrace everyone. That aloha does not have an asterisk next to it.”

State House leaders did not allow a number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills to be heard in committees this session because of a lack of support from lawmakers and the community. The divisive, extreme proposals that will die this session would have banned instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, required school sports to designate sex-specific teams, and prohibited the performance of gender reassignment surgeries on minors.

Milianta-Laffin said, “We should be able to agree on the importance of protecting every child and respecting every family. These politicians behind these attacks are trying to erase LGBTQ students and families from schools, and they’re doing it by saying anyone who disagrees with them is a threat to kids. We need to stop these attacks and ensure that every child is able to learn free from prejudice and discrimination.”

Her message for students, “Remember, where we stand today, the Hawaiʻi State Capitol is the people’s house. Students, this is your house, and you should expect the leaders in these walls to lead with love.”

Rev. Dr. Moses Barrios of Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church said religion should not be used to promote hate and exclusion. “I’m here to remind you that the divine knows who you are, created you, knows everything about you, loves you, and includes you,” he said.

“I can’t tell you how much hate mail I received in my church just by putting out a banner with an LGBT flag that says you’re all welcome. But how else will people know that the church stands with them if we do not stand boldly?” Barrios said.

The rally also raised awareness for the Lavender Clinic, an LGBTQ-friendly, inclusive nonprofit health care center that is in danger of closing due to lack of funding.

(EDITOR's NOTE: Lavender Clinic is the state's only juvenile sex-change clinic.)

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