Hysteria a driving force to derail a good law
HYSTERIA AND OUTRAGE are good ploys for political chaos, regardless of the facts. Hawaii's Legislature passed House Bill 1233
prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations after hearings, public debate and a logical review of current law and enforcement. That being done, the measure now sits at Gov. Lingle's desk awaiting her action or inaction.
The only really new element of the proposed law change is that public accommodations like riding the bus, being served in a restaurant or seeking a service in a publicly advertised business would not be allowed to discriminate based upon sexual orientation. There has not been one word of disagreement with this provision or language in any hearing, debate or even from the concerns listed at a recent meeting with the senior policy analyst representing the governor. Yet there is a problem, a perception, and outrage and a political firestorm over another provision in the bill that is already a part of civil rights enforcement.
THE HYSTERIA bolstered by the screamers in opposition is on the issue of gender identity or expression. Boiled down to our local understanding, the meaning is "mahus," or those who are dealing with transgender lives, being able to use restrooms. It should be needless to say, but we must say it for those who know little or nothing about human needs: Mahus have been and will continue to use restrooms throughout their lives.
Importantly, the rhetorical outrage and hysteria are being conducted when enforcement based upon gender identity has been happening in Hawaii by the state Civil Rights Commission for many years now. There is nothing new in terms of enforcement of current law, yet this section, which only codifies current laws and interpretation, is getting all the misdirected attention. Members of the public and Lingle, please get the message and the truth: Prohibition of gender identity or expression discrimination already is covered under current law and practices.
NOW LET'S go back to what really will be added to law with HB 1233.
"What do you mean, it's legal in Hawaii, just because I'm gay, to refuse to (pick one) rent me a hotel room, serve me in the restaurant or let me use the park?"
Unless the governor signs or allows to become law HB 1233, this is exactly what will continue to be the situation in Hawaii. While state law forbids such discrimination in hiring at the hotel or restaurant, it is still legal in Hawaii to refuse to provide service at the same hotel or restaurant to a customer, just because the establishment thinks or knows a person is gay. Unbelievable!
The red herring tossed around in the media, like a fish being thrown around at Seattle's Pike Place Market -- is already law and practice. Even with that exposed, the hysterical "sky is falling" detractors and anyone still concerned in the administration needs also to focus on exemption of this law for facilities where "personal privacy," such as bathrooms and showers, are of concern.
THE CURRENT statute provision of the House Revised Statutes: 489-4 specifically allows such personal privacy facilities to have separated facilities. So while the issue is not a new one, and is currently enforced for general public accommodations, this personal privacy specifically allows for continued separation of bathrooms and such as a protected waiver.
Governor, it's time to stop the embarrassment of the continuing legal discrimination in Hawaii. Sign HB 1233.
William E. Woods-Bateman is executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation.