Political Radar


October 3rd, 2013

With a religious exemption emerging as an important factor in the debate over gay marriage at the Legislature, a symposium will be held next Wednesday evening at the state Capitol to examine the issue.

The symposium will be moderated by Avi Soifer, the dean of the University of Hawaii and Manoa law school. The panel will include James Hochberg, an attorney who represents religious conservatives; Lois Perrin, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii; and Andrea Freeman, a UH assistant law professor.

The symposium starts at 5:30 p.m. in the state Capitol auditorium.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has called lawmakers back in special session starting Oct. 28 to consider a gay marriage bill.

4 Responses to “Panel”

  1. ohiaforest3400:

    Let the Less Ihara dog and pony show begin.

  2. Kolea:


    I hadn't know it was Les' idea to hold this, but I think it probably is a good idea. Some opponents of equality for gays and lesbians have clearly been mobilized through religious networks, particularly the Grandmothers League of Inflexible Catholics, the rightwing fundamentalist Protestants and the Mormon Church.

    There are (at least) three frontlines in the battle: 1)the right to equal marriage rights; 2) the right of people contemptuous of gays to continue to discriminate when and where they can and 3)the effort to intimidate and punish legislators who vote "the wrong way" on the bill.

    The homophobes have lost on issue #1. Public opinion has evolved tremendously in shedding hatred, fear and/or bigotry against gays and lesbians, with an ever-growing majority supporting legal aand social equality. It is well known that younger people, in particular, tend to be very supportive of gay equality, to the dismay and disappointment of their grandparents, who retreat to their churches and the comfort of the bubble created by watching Fox News 24/7.

    Issue #2 is an attempt to take advantage of widespread confusion over "religious freedom." Just as their predecessors, with the STRONG and active support of conservative Protestant clergy: Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson got their first political involvement by using the Gospel to oppose equality for African-Americans and to protect their idealized image of the Real America as white, Protestant and male-dominated.

    Issue #2 relies upon widespread ignorance of the sort you witnessed on the other post, how "the separation of Church and State" does not appear in the Constitution. You expressed reluctance to deal with the issue, but it is important that every time this false notion arises we HAVE to deal with it. The split between church authority and civil authority is a foundation stone in the struggle to build a modern, liberal, democratic republic despite the counter-imperatives of feudalism (in the past) and the "modern" alliance of the corporate elite and social reactionaries and obscurantists.

    There is a very warped conception of "religious freedom" which holds sway in some circles. An infat=ntile conception of freedom which ONLY cares about the "freedom" of oneself and those like oneself. There is no appreciation for the balancing act expressed in the notion "Your right to swing your arm ends where my nore begins." No, they just want to claim the unrestrained right to swing their fist.

    We saw that self-centered conception of "freedom" in the debate over healthcare, where religious employers want to claim the right to determine the healthcare choices of their employees, particularly those of young women, who might want to exercise their individual choice to use contraception. The argument went: No. The RIGHT of the employer to decide what medical practices are covered by the insurance plan covering HIS employees trumps the freedom of those employees.

    The argument was bankrupt, arrogant and, not accidentally, feudalistic. But this one-sided conception of religious freedom goes back to the founding of the North AMerican colonies by the Brits in the early 1600. Prt of the MYTHOLOGY of American Exceptionalism is that the colonies were established as a bold experiment in religious freedom. But, except for Pennsylvania and, Maryland, none of the original colonies were founded by people who believed in the relgious freedom of anyone, but those who agreed with them. The Puritans of New England were particularly vicious and intolerant, whipping, branding, ostracizing and even executing religious dissenters. Massachusetts, the main headquarters for Puritans in North America, did not only execute"witches,"
    but also Quakers. Contrary to the apologist version of history which treats this as an "outbreak" of hysteria, this was deeply rooted in the self-righteous, self-centered conception of "religious freedom" which the Puritans shared with the ideological descendants, the modern fundamentalists. Well, not "modern," but "contemporary."

    Legislators, and other observers, trying to make sense of the competing conception of rights would do well to consider the very analogous protection of the civil rights of racial minorities. Rand Paul, coming out of a longstanding "states rights" and "individual rights" perspective, found that his views which were acceptable in Southern conservative circles, which opposed those provisions of the Civil Rights Act which restricted "private" businesses, were unacceptable in the broader, national discourse on civil rights. Rand (and his father) SUPPORTED the right of those Woolworth diners in refusing service to blacks, and supported the rights of theaters and hotels to also refuse to serve blacks. Paul would only agree to support the ban on discrimination by PUBLIC, that is, government provided, services.

    BUt the Courts, and most of the public, have come to accept the "public accommodations" argument. Those businesses which are open for PUBLIC business are not allowed to discriminate based upon race. The Klan and the southern "Conservative Citizens Council" groups still object to that framework.

    Which brings us to today and the equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. Jom Hochberg, Bishop Larry Silva and others hostile to ending PUBLIC discrimination against gays, want to preserve an expanded definition of what constitutes the "private" arena in which prejudice is allowed free rein. o they re trying to prevent the application of the "public commotion" framework.

    Which brings us to issue #3. Legislators who may have reluctantly acceded to the rising tide of public support for gay equality, but who remain fearful of having to cast a vote and offending ANY block of determined voters, may very well fixate on this rightwing attempt to expand the realm of the "private" and, in the interests of appeasing the right, demand the bill be amended to allow for this unprincipled restriction of equality. Most legislators, in addition to being timid, do not care about principled arguments, nor the historical origins of our underlying legal arguments. They just want to be re-elected and stop getting angry phone calls.

    my point--and I DO have one--is the event you are calling "Les Ihara's dog and pony show" can provide an occasion the normal legislative process does not allow, a time for an in-depth discussion of powerful assumptions which may otherwise prevent agreement. The MIS-undersatnding that "the separation of Church and State" does "not appear" in the Constitution' needs to be dealt with someplace other than in churches, in bars and in online comments. I suggest it is preferable to have Avi Sofier debate Jim Hochberg in front of "God and Country" (and the public, the tv cameras and, hopefully, some legislators) than to hope they see you and I on Derrick and BJ's blog, swatting down the nonsense being spouted by undereducated rightwing dingbats.

    And I fear the public hearing would limit my testimony to two or three minutes and I would be unable to pour the contents of these extended comments into such a tiny time-slot.

    So I would set aside your frustrations with Les and see the value of holding such an event. And maybe the "ponys" will turn out to be full-sized horses. And maybe the "dogs," will actually be tamed, but magnificent, wolves. I probably can't be there, so take notes, will ya?

  3. Especially Incognito:

    Dogs are bi-product of wolves.
    Domesticated rather than being wild.
    Maybe being carefree is being wild.

    One is called a "minuteperson". If
    only I knew what side of the fence.

  4. ohiaforest3400:

    A week later, I say "Kolea, I get your point" but we now know that the event was cancelled, apparently because it was going to turn into a free-for-all. Or a dog-and-pony show. Take your pick. With Less try to micromanage it the whole way. Like everything else he does(n't) do.

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