Election 2002
Gay and lesbian
voters struggle
with ballot choice

Candidates from the major parties
are courting their support

By Richard Borreca

Ken Miller of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center says he has never seen so much support from the major candidates in the Hawaii race for governor.

National surveys estimate the gay and lesbian voters base to be between 5 percent and 9 percent of registered voters. Miller says he agrees with those figures, which in Hawaii would translate into 32,000 to 57,000 possible voters, a group that candidates cannot ignore.

Democratic candidates Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Ed Case showed up for interviews at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Republican Linda Lingle also attended. Democrat D.G. "Andy" Anderson filled out a questionnaire, but did not attend a forum.

Miller said gay and lesbian voters are usually Democrats, but this year "it is very difficult."

"We are continuing to dialogue in our own community; we will wait until the general election to make a decision about who we will support," Miller said.

Originally, Miller said, he expected gay and lesbian voters to support Hirono, who had come out strongly against a constitutional ban to same-sex marriages, but then after Hirono left the governor's race to take aim at the Honolulu Mayor's Office, support swung to Case.

When Hirono came back in the governor's race, the gay and lesbian vote was split, Miller said. It became even more confusing with Republican Linda Lingle's moderate position. Despite opposition from some Republicans, Lingle encouraged the formation of a Hawaii chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian GOP political group.

Jeffrey Bingham Mead, the local head of Log Cabin Republicans, said that in Hawaii the gay and lesbian vote will be crucial.

"It will be just as vital as the native Hawaiian vote and the women's vote," Mead said.

And there is no assurance that the vote will be Democratic, according to Mead.

"I am here to tell you there is no monolithic gay and lesbian Democrat vote," Mead said.

Miller, who said his group doesn't agree with many of the positions taken by the Log Cabin Republicans, acknowledged that Lingle's support has caused the gay and lesbian vote to be up for grabs by all three candidates.

"We really want change, so it is a very difficult decision," Miller explained.

Anderson said he thought the gay and lesbian vote would be supporting Case and Hirono.

"They both support same-sex marriage and there is no way I would. I am vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage," Anderson said.

Hirono notes that even if Lingle says she favors domestic partnerships, she was against allowing same-sex marriages.

"My record is very clear, I support equal justice and equal rights," Hirono said. "Also, are they forgetting that Linda Lingle was for the constitutional amendment. That is a big one," Hirono said.

In 1998, voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the power to restrict marriage to people of the opposite sex.

Lingle responds that her support for domestic partnerships doesn't extend to same-sex marriage.

"As for the question of same-sex marriages, I voted with the 70 percent of the people who are against same-sex marriages. If Mazie wins the primary, there obviously will be a difference: She voted with the 30 percent and I voted with 70 percent of the people," Lingle said.

Case, who had argued against moving the traditional-marriage constitutional amendment to voters, said, "The gay and lesbian community will have two candidates that have advocated for them. I have made the tough votes and generated a lot of heat. There is no question that I damaged myself politically by taking these positions."

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