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Campaigning for discrimination is bad for business

Timothy Kincaid

June 23rd, 2010

After the legislature passed House Bill 444 to allow for the creation and recognition of civil unions in the State of Hawaii, the executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable sent a letter recommending that Governor Lingle veto the bill.

Choosing not to express ways in which, if any, the Roundtable as impacted by the bill, the letter chose instead to justify their call for veto in terms of vague “questions” that have “implications” and “complexities” involving ERISA. Were Hawaii the first state to consider civil unions, their letter might have merit. But considering that several states have already resolved the ERISA “complexities”, the letter signed by executive director Gary K. Kai takes on the overtones of bigotry cloaked in terms of reasonableness.

Kai claimed that the letter had “broad support among its membership” and was the consensus of the group. But after Honolulu Civil Beat posted a copy of the letter and the membership list of the organization, several prominent Hawaii businesses were quick to distance themselves from Kai’s letter. (Star Advertiser)

Meanwhile, five more Hawaii Business Roundtable members have distanced themselves from the organization’s call to Lingle to veto the civil unions bill. The companies are:

» Alexander & Baldwin Inc., which released a statement yesterday that it did not participate in any discussion regarding the bill.

» Foodland, which said to supporters that it had no part in asking for a veto of the bill.

» Hawaii Pacific Health, which in a letter to civil union supporters said it does not endorse the letter.

» Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Inc., which sent a letter to Lingle, citing the company’s policies on nondiscrimination.

» Kyo-ya Company LLC, which said in a letter to supporters and Lingle that it was “disappointed” with the letter.

These were not alone. (Star Advertiser)

Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state’s largest health insurer, and Hawaii National Bank were the latest Business Roundtable members to speak out, saying they were not informed of the letter until after it became public. Five Roundtable members issued statements Thursday disassociating themselves from the letter.

Robert P. Hiam, HMSA president and chief executive officer, said the insurer takes a strong stance on the issue.

“Our organization opposes discrimination on any basis, and in keeping with that philosophy, had we been consulted on this matter, we would not have supported the decision to call for a veto of HB (House Bill) 444,” Hiam said in a letter to Carolyn Martinez Golojuch, president of the equal-rights group PFLAG-Oahu, who made the statement public.

But Kai – using a common ploy of anti-gay activists – claims that he doesn’t oppose civil unions in general, just these civil unions.

“Unfortunately, the use of the word veto has become equivalent to some, as a position against civil unions,” Kai wrote.

Funny, that. Further, Mr. Kai claims that he has the support of the executive committee of the Hawaii Business Roundtable. To date there are no news reports that the executive committee members disagree. They are:

David Carey
President & CEO
Outrigger Enterprises

H. Mitchell D’Olier
President & CEO
Kaneohe Ranch Company

Donald G. Horner
President & CEO
First Hawaiian Bank

Allan Landon
President & CEO
Bank of Hawaii

Constance Lau
President & CEO
HEI

Dee Jay Mailer
Chief Executive Officer
Kamehameha Schools

Nate Smith
President
Oceanic Cablevision Inc.

Arthur A. Ushijima
President & CEO
Queens Health Systems

Allen Uyeda
President & CEO
First Insurance Co of Hawaii

Harry Saunders
President
Castle & Cook Hawaii

Considering the nature of some of the businesses represented on the executive committee, I am not convinced that Mr. Kai’s desire to oppose these civil unions is as supported as he supposes. Banks and hotels, for example, do not like it when customers think that they support discrimination and executives of corporations tend to look for ways to earn loyal employees, not harm their lives.

Further employers often take into consideration that corporate positions or actions on the part of executives that appear to be hostile to gay people can make a significant impact on a jury should any future discrimination claims be brought against the company. This can be seen as establishing a hostile work environment and condoning discrimination by supervisors.

If any of our readers work for or do business with these companies am certain that each and every one of these officers would love nothing more than to hear from you inquiring if they support Mr. Kai’s letter and share his ojection to these civil unions. And if so, I am convinced that they would like to hear in detail exactly why it is that you have “questions” that have “implications” and “complexities” involving doing continued business with their companies.

Comments

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Lindoro Almaviva
June 23rd, 2010 | LINK

Why wait for people who live in Hawaii? As members of the media, the site could make individual calls and ask for a reaction to the letter and for each “co-signer” to expand on the reasons why they signed it.

I am sure the moment they hear that the media got a hold of it they will figure out the public will not be far removed and they will spring into action.

shane nunn
June 24th, 2010 | LINK

Thank you Timothy for sharing the links with the companies on the executive committee. It made it far easier to send a letter to eight of them on how much I disliked their support of the veto of the partnerships bill.

DaveM
June 24th, 2010 | LINK

In other legal news, Doe v. Reed came down, and the petition-signers lost 8-1, that they can’t in general keep signatures private. This could bounce around for a little while though, as they still have an as-applied challenge to make.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/09-559.pdf

John Doucette
June 24th, 2010 | LINK

What is the difference between civil unions in general and “these civil unions”?

Why would heterosexual couples want civil unions which the federal government does not recognize and so losing them over 1,000 federal benefits when they are able to marry?

Ben in Oakland
June 24th, 2010 | LINK

This is a LETTER I just sent to Gov. Lingle. We should all be writing to her.

June 24, 2010
Hon. Governor Linda Lingle
Executive Chambers
Honolulu, Hawai’i

Dear Governor Lingle:

I am a former resident of Hawai’i, though I have lived in the Bay Area for the past 35 years. I know that you are considering vetoing Hawaii’s Civil Unions Bill, apparently to satisfy religious and social conservatives, and frankly, people who may be neither, but hate gay people for whatever reasons they may have.

I would like to ask you to sign this bill or, if you cannot do that, allow it to become law without your signature, if Hawai’i law allows for that. I will give you two very simple reasons for it.

1) It is not marriage, it is a civil union. It is not as good, but it does protect gay couples and families with children with an easily accessible legal contract, very similar to that afforded any heterosexual. Exactly how much less good does it need to be before it will be acceptable to people who wish to legally disadvantage gay people to express their disapproval of people they do not know and who have done them no harm?

2) The people who oppose this are primarily religious people who believe homosexuality is a sin. Many religious people do not. What about their religious beliefs? As a Jew, I do not accept Christianity’s “truths”, but to suggest that I should be legally disadvantaged because I don’t would be called religious discrimination. Why is this different?

. Hawai’i has a long history of tolerance for all kinds of people, including gay people. One of my best friends at UH was a mahu Hawaiian boy who was totally loved and accepted by his very large Hawaiian family. Please, for the sake of ALL of the people of Hawai’i, do not veto this law.

Sincerely yours,

Bennett L. Janken

PS. Attached is a piece I wrote two years ago that appeared in several California newspapers. I hope you will take the trouble to read it

VIEW OF PROP. 8 FROM A GAY MAN
To begin with, I am no one in particular. I’m just a happy, middle class, middle aged, middle-of-the-road gay man who hopes my marriage will survive the election. It seems to me that missing in all of the arguments about Prop. 8 are both a clear view of gay people, and a simple understanding about what marriage means to us. I would like to provide that perspective, in the form of a…

LETTER TO CALIFORNIA VOTERS CONCERNING MY MARRIAGE

Two months ago, I married the man I love and share my life with to the acclaim and pleasure of our families and friends. Paul and I have known each other for seven years, and have been married in all but name for the past six. Both of us are contributing, tax-paying, law-abiding, and productive members of our community. We live active, healthy, and positive lives. We are well thought of by family, friends, and colleagues, and live in peace with our neighbors. Despite all this, some people think that the fact that we are both men is the only thing of importance, and that this invalidates our love, our commitment, and especially, our claim to equality before the law. Some will even go so far as to call us a threat to family, children, and faith.

We’re not a threat to anyone or anything. Nor is our marriage. We’re just Ben and Paul. And we want to stay married.

Our love is as deep and abiding and committed as any couple you can name. We married because we love each other, and share our lives and fortunes together– just like you. We were excited about our wedding, our rings, and sharing our joy with our loved ones– just like you. We have promised to be there for each other in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, and to be a married couple for the rest of our lives– just like you.

And we have done exactly that. I have walked Paul through three different cancer attacks. Paul is supporting me now that my business has collapsed. This is what married couples do: they build a life together, they support each other.

Because of the strength of these promises and our life together, our marriage contributes to society in exactly the same way that yours does. We don’t have children, but there are at least 70,000 children with gay and lesbian parents in California. If strong marriages build strong families, and marriage and family are the foundations of society, don’t our marriages, families, and children matter as much as yours? Why would you tell gay people to take their building blocks and stay home?

Our wedding and our promises mean as much to us, and to our friends and families, as yours do to you. Perhaps more. You see, you probably have never had to question whether you could marry the person you love best in all the world. It’s your right, after all. But it isn’t ours. Prop. 8 supporters claim that we gay people, via domestic partner laws, already have all of the rights afforded you by marriage. Maybe, except this one: the rightness, the validity, the very existence of your marriage will NEVER, EVER be debated, much less voted upon, by complete strangers. But you can vote on our rights and our marriages. Just as you can vote on the continued existence of those domestic partner laws, or on any statutory protection of our lives and families. Just as you can vote on laws that say that separate but equal is good enough.

Just like Prop. 8.

What if you had to ask 16 million people for permission to marry your beloved? How would you feel if the love and commitment you bear your beloved is, at best, diminished and devalued as unimportant? Or at worst, denigrated as sick, sinful, and dangerous, and such a threat to family and society that a constitutional amendment must be passed to protect them? Would you like it if we had the power to make your marriage disappear? How would you feel if you were told that separate-but-equal was good enough for you? We Americans tried that before, and it doesn’t work.

Gay people and straight people, taken as a whole, are pretty much alike. This includes matters like romance, family, marriage, and religion. And why shouldn’t we be alike? We’re your relatives and friends, your colleagues and neighbors. We’re you. Are we not human enough, not citizens enough, not good enough, to grant us the right to marry? Paul and I want for us, our friends, and our families exactly what you get from our government: the same dignity, the same respect, and the same equality before the law that you demand for yourselves. That’s everything. Our lives and our families are every bit as valuable as yours. You don’t have to approve of or accept gay people, or to be a part of our lives; we have plenty of people who do. We are not attacking your marriages, your families, your faith, or your civil rights, or preventing them from being legally protected. Can you say the same about yourselves?

We want to take nothing from you. We want only the same rights and protections that you have. Nothing more.

And nothing less.

TonyJazz
June 28th, 2010 | LINK

Though my husband is very fond of Hawaii, we stopped going there because of their horrible treatment of the issue of gay marriage.

I’ve only been there once since this issue was badly resolved, but would have gone maybe a dozen times if that hadn’t been the case.

Unfortunately, friends tell me that there is almost no remaining ‘gay scene’ in Honolulu, as a result of Hawaiian bigotry.

I hope they are happy getting all that Mormon money instead….

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