Posted below is the verbal testimony I presented to the state senate committee hearing on HB444. You will notice that I followed much of my submitted written testimony (which was basically the previous two essays). What I do not have reprinted was my ad-hoc introductory statement, that explained my lack of any substantive relationships with homosexuals, which I hoped would indicate that I had nothing to gain or lose (even socially) by opposing or supporting the bill. I tried to make it clear that I felt compelled to speak because my understanding of the issue was that of Biblical literacy and civil justice, and my convictions as an evangelical Christian would not allow my silence. Here is the recreated testimony I presented:
Chairperson Tamiguchi and other members of the committee, thank you for hearing all the testimony today and for allowing me a moment of your time to add to the plethora of voices represented today. I would like to take a moment to highlight some of what is already contained within my written testimony as well as add just a few more points I feel are relevant in light of earlier testimony shared today.
First, opponents of HB 444 (HD1) will cite the 19998 vote that defined marriage in our state constitution. I feel it is imperative that I point out that many thousands of voting age constituents were not represented in that vote, including myself. In fact any person currently in the state of Hawaii between the age of 18 and 28 has had their voice retroactively co-opted (one commentator on a Honolulu Advertiser article cited that demographic could represent up to one fifth of the state’s total population). By this, I mean, those thousands upon thousands of constituents are either being silenced or used to say something that they have not. Eleven years ago, it is clear that Hawaii felt the proper definition of marriage was between one man and one woman, but no reasonable person may therefore presume that each of those many thousands of constituents would support his or her current perspective. Please do not perpetuate this travesty by allowing a decade old vote to determine the current feelings of Hawaii residents. My generation should not be silenced or misrepresented.
Secondly, upon viewing the rally on these very grounds this past Sunday, I was compelled to respond. I wrote my current written testimony as an Op Ed to the local papers. The first portion of my written testimony was printed as a guest commentary on the Hawaii Reporter. The next day, I read a commentary on the Honolulu Advertiser stating many church and business leaders’ opposition to HB 444. I later wrote the second part of my testimony as a rebuttal to that commentary, but did not send it to any organization. I have posted those pieces for public scrutiny on my own blog, which is easily searchable online. Throughout my writing, I emphasized the importance of Biblical literacy over Biblical literalism. The former has tragically surfaced earlier today, prompting me to articulate what I believe to be a more consistent Biblical witness. To focus on the idea of Sodom and Gomorrah (which was invoked on the 5th in the House Judiciary), I must insist we look to the text of God’s word, from which I draw my own identity and sense of belonging. Nowhere in the S&G narrative, Genesis 18 and 19, do we find that homosexuality (or even sexually immorality) caused the downfall of the city. In Genesis 19, we find only that lust was a condition present at the time of its destruction. If we look to Ezekiel, verse 16:49, the author provides a more complete understanding of what God found most offensive of the city’s transgressions: arrogance, obesity, unconcern, and not helping the poor and needy.
We find Biblical literalism falling short time again in the book most notorious to the homosexual community. Leviticus mentions detestable things in the NIV instead of abominations, but it is clear that it decries acts, not human beings created in the image of God. I particularly feel the Church should have consistent ethics, both in the general idea of consistency over time, as well as consistent with the word of God. For example, suppose we do not challenge the detestable lustful acts described in Lev. 18:22. We would also have the opportunity to:
– sell our daughters into slavery (Ex. 27:10)
– possess slaves, if purchased from a neighboring country (Mexican workers need not be paid after all! Lev. 25:44)
I mention this to highlight that the human race has evolved and developed (with the blessing of God, I believe). We have abolished slavery, given the vote and greater equality to women and people of color, and triumphed over religiously supported nationalism in the form of Nazi Germany. Throughout history, there has been a vocal minority that insists the Bible prohibits such social evolution. I understand this as a problem of adhering too strictly to a literal interpretation of the word of God.
I similarly feel that to oppose this bill reveals a very basic misunderstanding of civic literacy. We enjoy (both in the state and within the church) a clear distinction between the two. I hold, and I articulate more clearly and exhaustively in my written testimony, that the marriage is intrinsically and inseparably an institution of the church. While religious communities will always be free to define marriage according to their specific traditions, the state has a legal obligation to provide equitable and just treatment for all within its authority. You will notice, however, that proponents of civil union like myself are approaching the state, not the church. You, our lawmakers, do not hold within your jurisdiction the authority to dictate a religious communities fundamental sacraments. Likewise, the church should not assert any pressure whatsoever to dictate the morals of the state, which is for the public in a democracy, to do so is no less than coercion.
To be clear, the government is commissioned to administer the law of the land, not regulate the morality of its people. Furthermore, it is to ensure equity and justice for all, based primarily on the merit of citizenship. In our society, we grant certain privileges to citizens who enter into an intimate relationship. These benefits include, but are not limited to, tax incentives, hospital visitation rights, life and health insurance benefits, etc. What the government does not have the authority to do is to dictate new merits upon which to grant or deny said privileges, namely, merits based upon an aspect of human life that one does not retain positive control over, such as one’s sexual orientation. To do so would be the equivalent of rewriting our state constitution to similarly discriminate based upon race or ethnicity.
In our representative form of government, we long ago struck down “separate but equal laws.” We have made it clear to our elected officials that no special treatment for one section of society should be tolerated, especially if done so at the expense of another. Any couple that receives financial and civil rewards as a result of their union does so at the expense of (and therefore remain in debt to) the public. In reality, all “marriages” authorized and protected by the state are, in their most basic form, civil unions. Furthermore, to extend equal rights and protections (as HB444 clearly states) to same sex couples ensures impartiality and provides equal rights under the law, a fact opponents of this bill do not contend. Please, do not grant me or the Church any more rights and privileges than any other segment of society.
Finally, I found it tragically ironic that the blessed cacophony today took place in the very midst of our soon-to-be saint, Father Damien of Moloka’i. Is the modern church’s hindsight really so shortsighted so as to dismiss his very witness? It was Damien, after all, who, despite the supposed wretchedness of Kalaupapa’s “lepers,” chose to care for and sustain, and later to be counted as one with the people of the outcast colony. Apparently, we are, in fact, so blind that we fail to recognize how we have again found a section of society we label unclean, effectively ostracizing and rejecting God’s own beautiful reflection.
In closing, permit me to close with a paraphrased I find glaringly relevant to our discussion here today. Dr. King, in his speech “Our God Marches On,” given March 25, 1965 in Birmingham, AL:
“How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets… and communities… be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?“