HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu City Councilmember Gary Okino has angered the gay community after making inflammatory comments during a council committee meeting. All while he is trying to be confirmed as a member of the city Ethics Board of Appeals.
The council committee that got an earful of Okino's biblical beliefs did not object. But critics sure are saying his prejudice should disqualify him for the position.
"First of all I have to say that tolerance is not a virtue. Are you tolerant of murder? Are you tolerant of drug abuse? No you're not. So I have no tolerance for homosexuality and I get accused of being intolerant. Is it good? Is it bad? Intolerance is relative," said Gary Okino, during an Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee meeting last Tuesday.
Okino was a member of the Honolulu City Council for 10 years. In all he has worked for the city more than 43 years. He was speaking out against homosexuality. The comments came at Okino's own confirmation hearing for a two year term on the Ethics Board of Appeals. Okino was appointed by previous Mayor Peter Carlisle.
"It's not only that we're against stealing, against drug abuse. But the divine law says that same sex marriage and homosexuality is not pono. It's not right, it's immoral, it's deviant," said Okino, during the meeting. "There is an outbreak now of anal, penile and throat cancers among the homosexual community. Okay it's proven study after study that emotionally, psychologically, socially homosexuals are the mostly negatively impacted of all segments in the community. There is a negative impact on families and children. Our children are imperiled by that."
"He called them immoral, deviant, diseased and he compared our gay and lesbian community to murderers and thieves. This is unacceptable public statements from anyone seeking an appointment to anything," said Holly Huber, who testified against Okino's confirmation.
Okino's comments were made two days ago and he stands by them today.
"Definitely I stand by it. I could have softened it a little more but it was a reaction to their sudden attack on me," said Okino, referring to a group of people who testified against his appointment.
Okino is 71, a member of the Catholic Church and says he prays for homosexuals everyday to change what he believes is a choice.
"I'm not a bigoted person. There is no bigotry in me at all. What I'm doing is trying to fight something that is not good for our community, not good for our people," said Okino. "It undermines families, undermines children, It is a huge threat to the community because it's not according to the natural law, or divine law. I think our problem is we have been silent too long. We just allow people to go ahead and do what they want despite the fact we know it's wrong. If we had spoken up sooner maybe we would have kept these things under control."
"They don't want any part of God. They want to do their own things. What they're doing is undermining society but they don't see that. I think it is a Christian's duty to raise that warning flag. To tell people you are doing something wrong. You are leading this country down the wrong path," continued Okino.
"He said he is intolerant of homosexuals. Well that is a violation of the city's anti discrimination policy. That should preclude him based on his acknowledged prejudice that should preclude him from the appointment," said Huber.
"Imagine if Mr. Okino made these statements about another protected class. What if he had disparaged another race? Say he said Native Hawaiians are comparable to murderers and thieves. What if he said black people are immoral? What if he said women are diseased? I mean no one would accept these statements. He would immediately be chastised for these bigoted statements but somehow our City Council seems to think it's okay to disparage the gay and lesbian community. That hate speech against homosexuals is somehow protected by Mr. Okino's religion," continued Huber.
The city Ethics Board of Appeals resolves disputes with city employees, which could include discrimination. Okino says he can be impartial.
"So it's not hatefulness. It is intolerance, I'm sorry. It is intolerance for something that I believe that is absolutely wrong," said Okino, to the council committee.
"You can't just say whatever you want and then hide behind religion. It is not a free pass to discriminate," said Huber. "We can do without this kind of Christian love thank you very much Mr. Okino."
Despite Okino's comments no one on the council committee objected to his appointment. The full city council will vote on Okino's confirmation next Wednesday.
Gay activists are mobilizing to convince council members to reject the confirmation.