House candidates clash over civil unions

Blake Oshiro
Blake Oshiro
Gary Okino
Gary Okino

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

AIEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the most watched state races in Saturday's primary election will be the battle between democrats Blake Oshiro and Gary Okino in House District 33 (Aiea, Halawa Valley, Aiea Heights). It is a showdown between veteran politicians that may have a big impact on the future of civil unions in Hawaii.

Oshiro authored the civil unions bill that passed in the legislature this year but was vetoed by Governor Linda Lingle.

Okino is a staunch opponent of anything that resembles a same sex marriage.

"Overall, for the betterment of society, we need to treat everybody equally. And so that's what I believe civil unions is about," Oshiro told Hawaii News Now.

"That I totally disagree with on the basis of morality. I'm known for having a Christian faith that follows the word of god," Okino said.

Okino has spent the past decade as a member of the Honolulu City Council representing Moanalua, Aiea, Pearl City and Waipio Gentry.

"Number one is my honesty and integrity. And I think in ten years on the city council I think I've proven that. Number two is my fiscal conservativeness," Okino said when asked why he should be considered for office.

Oshiro has spent the past decade in the House representing district 33.

"In my ten years in office I've been very effective in terms of bringing the community its priorities whether it's a new library or funding to buy the old sugar mill land or millions of dollars for our schools," Oshiro said of his work at the legislature.

Both men have ideas on lots issues, but the race for Oshiro's seat is being defined by their opposing views on civil unions.

"My main concern is to preserve the integrity of our traditional families. That's what makes up our society. That's the strength of our society," Okino said.

Oshiro countered "He (Okino) also really strongly believes that we need more righteousness in our government and he wants to see more church influence in government. I tend to believe that our founders had an idea that they wanted some separation," Oshiro said.

At their state convention in May democrats adopted a platform that supports civil unions. Some people in the party are angry that Okino has taken a public stance that contradicts the party platform.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii is asking that Okino be kicked out of the party because he is asking people to vote for republicans who share his views on same sex relationships.

"He violated the rules because he supported republicans, and that is explicit in the rules that you cannot support people in another party," said Jo-Ann Adams, chair of the GLBT Caucus.

Okino admits he is asking people to vote for certain republicans.

"I've gone out and I've searched for these candidates and I've gotten their commitment to do the right thing," Okino added.

Oshiro is just one of the 31 members of the 51 seat House of Representatives who voted in favor of civil unions during the 2010 legislative session. But as the bill's author he helped convince other members of the house to support the bill.

If he loses the primary election to Okino, civil union proponents will have lost their champion. And people who support traditional families will have scored a big victory.

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