June 26, 2015: As I write, our celebrations across the nation continue after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling on Marriage Equality, once known as “same sex marriage.” However, the issue is far from being settled. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s 103-page dissenting opinion set off an immediate firestorm of pushback from scores of conservative politicians & religious groups. While it’s anyone’s guess what might come next, read what the Radical Christian Right’s (RCR) Hawai`i Family Forum posted HERE.
Having battled the RCR for over 50 years, with Marriage Equality achieved, I have no doubt that these zealots will redouble their efforts to erode a woman’s right to choose, to eliminate rational sex education in the public schools, block any LGBT supportive legislation and push Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. No doubt Death With Dignity will be near the top of the RCR’s hit list.
On the local LGBT front, although there are some very positive signs of healing in Hawai`i, even after our 2013 victory for Marriage Equality, our tiny community remains somewhat divided. What happened in the past that led to the internal ego & turf battles and strained political relationships? What must we do to heal the divisions and cease being our own worst enemies?
The majority of us have been emotionally abused and discriminated against and contrary to popular belief, many of us are poor — simply because we cannot access the same social, career and business opportunities enjoyed by the heterosexual and closeted world. One of our many internal challenges is to eliminate the class discrimination exhibited by many Gay men in what we once called “the pink tea set” — the wealthier, very clannish and exclusionary Gay men.
Those of us who do live an “open” life are abhorred by our closeted brothers and sisters because they fear we might blow their cover or otherwise somehow embarrass them. Thankfully, many of these negative traits do not manifest as often in the Millennial generation and I salute our society for this — with the great hope of seeing the day when one’s sexuality will no longer matter.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I sincerely believe some of the solutions might reveal themselves if and when the current generation of advocates, straight and LGBT, better educate themselves about the complex social and political history of the modern LGBT movement in Hawai`i and elsewhere. None of it just “happened.” It’s been a very long, bloody road and this recent U.S. Supreme Court decision would never have occurred had the groundwork not been laid over the course of many decades by heroes both known and forgotten.
Reflecting at 73 , it seems as though my many challenging experiences living as a young, openly Gay male activist in Oklahoma, “the buckle of the bible belt,” during the 1960s and ’70s was only a precursor to all that came later. I’m thankful that someone with the credentials and writing chops of Aaron Lee Bachhofer II, PhD researched and wrote, THE EMERGENCE AND EVOLUTION OF THE GAY AND BISEXUAL MALE SUBCULTURE IN OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, 1889-2005. Read that HERE.
I didn’t set out to spend so much of my adult life fighting for LGBT and related social justice issues and thought that our early victories would continue because we had become so well organized nationally. Then AIDS struck literally out of nowhere and the pandemic that followed altered the entire course of my life and the lives of several generations to follow.
We had no choice in the matter. Legions of our friends were sick and dying and our government could have cared less. We were literally fighting for our very lives.
Seemingly, the RCR’s prayers had been answered and we were at risk of being wiped off the face of the earth by a plague of biblical proportions. Sadly, the first suggested name for AIDS was Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).
As emotionally and politically weakened as we were, immediately on the heels of the AIDS Pandemic came the “Gay Marriage” issue. The local Hawai`i and then the national explosion in organizing by the RCR led by the Catholic Church began and ultimately led to the takeover of the Republican National Committee. Seemingly overnight, our struggle for what finally proved to be a constitutionally protected civil right became an ugly, divisive, election-winning wedge issue for social conservatives of all stripes across the nation.
What was to become a 23-year saga of operatic proportions first came to the nation’s attention in 1993 when the Hawai`i State Supreme Court “…ruled that while the right to privacy in the Hawaii state constitution does not include a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, denying marriage to same-sex couples constituted discrimination based on sex in violation of the right to equal protection guaranteed by the state’s constitution.” See the complete Hawai`i legal history HERE. I had been closely involved with the plaintiffs in the landmark Hawai`i court case (Baehr v. Lewin). More about that later.
At the very moment the 1993 Hawai`i Supreme Court decision was announced, I was employed as the staff Director of Communications for the first gubernatorial election campaign of then Lt. Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano. I was the only openly Gay member of the campaign; staff or volunteer. Ben Cayetano was one of the best political friends the Hawai`i LGBT community has ever had — but few knew this.
NOTE: Also in 1993, Scott was elected Assistant Secretary of the Democratic Party of Hawai`i (DPH), the first openly Gay person to achieve such a high Party position. He had helped organize the state to elect the National Rainbow Coalition‘s Hawai`i president as the State Chair of the powerful DPH. As Scott notes, “Amazingly, nine of us literally overthrew the Hawai`i political establishment and took over the Democratic Party of Hawai`i.”
Jumping way ahead of my story for a moment, Hawai`i became the 15th state in the nation to pass a Marriage Equality law during a Special Session of the Hawai`i State Legislature which convened on Monday, October 28, 2013. The law went into effect on December 2, 2013 and the first marriage was performed at 12:02 am the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu with the Governor participating. Read an excellent blow-by-blow Wiki page HERE
Not all will agree with the following personal perspective and that’s fine. I’ve done my level best to research and document the many significant events on this very bumpy road. I was often literally “in the room” when the fight for Marriage Equality escalated, spread across the country to Congress and the onerous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and was finally settled in Hawai`i 23-years later. Whew! What a wild ride it’s ALL been! – Scott Foster (June, 2015)