“I believe the time has come to allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military…In every war we have had men and women of different sexual orientation who have stood in harm’s way and given their lives for their country. I fought alongside gay men during World War II, many of them were killed in combat. Are we to suggest that because of their sexual orientation they are not heroes?” U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye
“This repeal [of don’t ask, don’t tell] will bring us another step towards equality in the United States.” U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Hawaii’s two U.S. Senators are now out. Our governor is out on this issue. Our two members of the U.S Congress are also out. And a strong majority of the Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives came out in support during this past year - some enthusiastically and others dragged kicking and screaming. But they too have been outed, nonetheless.
As evidenced by the legislature’s near-super majority vote earlier this year on the civil unions bill, HB444, and the subsequent results of the recent general election, it is abundantly clear that a clear majority of people in Hawaii support the equal treatment of gays and lesbians. The religious right pulled out all the stops, put forth their most righteous candidates, attacked vehemently and directly from the pulpit, and yet lost decisively at the polls.
It should be easy to come out for equality, for tolerance and for the celebration and acknowledgement of diversity. But clearly for many it is not. While a majority of people may profess to support equality, the establishment of civil unions, and ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ many remain reluctant to advocate so publicly.
A minority of our population has until now, succeeded in making the majority feel like they are actually the fringe. While those who support equality clearly represent mainstream opinion, a vocal and aggressive minority has somehow kept many people cowed into believing their support of gay and lesbian rights was best kept in the shadows, spoken about only in hushed tones among like-minded friends and close associates.
The time for hushed tones and timid support is past. It is time for those willing to speak privately in support, to step out NOW publicly, proudly and enthusiastically in support of equality issues at all levels.
Contact family and friends NOW, both here and on the mainland, and speak out in support of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” and of extending equal rights to gay couples everywhere.
Bring up the subject the next time you sit down with friends for a few beers and an evening of “Texas hold’em.”
Stand up, and speak out for what you believe in.
Talk to your children and to their teachers. Let them know that bullying and put downs are not acceptable, that being gay is ok and just a normal fact of life for many people.
Next time you attend church or Bible study, wear your “Equality Now!” sticker. Ask your fellow parishioners, “What would Jesus do?”
The tide of support will only grow as each of us encourages others through our own actions. The more of us that come out, the more of us who speak out against bigotry and intolerance, the more empowered others will be to come out too.
Ask anyone who has done so, and they will tell you that the first step is the most difficult. However, they will also tell you of a tremendous euphoric feeling of freedom and empowerment, once you have taken the fundamental step of being true to who you are and what you believe in.
Come out, step out and speak out for equality – NOW.
Gary Hooser - truth-teller without portfolio
Do Ask, Do Tell: Blowing off the closet doors - First published at The Hawaii Independent http://www.thehawaiiindependent.com/
For more information on former Hawaii State Senator and Majority Leader Gary Hooser, visit website in transition http://www.garyhooser.com
This blog is also moving to http://www.garyhooser.wordpress.com