Mayor pulls Okino nomination after anti-gay remarks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A nominee for the Ethics Board of Appeals has been withdrawn from consideration after making inflammatory comments against gays.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced today he is pulling the nomination of Gary Okino.  He says once he heard Okino's comments it was an easy decision.

"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," said Gary Okino, on Tuesday during his nomination hearing before the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee.

Okino is a former City Councilman and Ethics Board of Appeals nominee.  He compared gays to murderers and drug users.  He also said gays are deviant, diseased and negatively affecting society.  He says homosexuality goes against his Catholic beliefs.

"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, at Tuesday's hearing.

Backlash had already been building leading up to his nomination vote before the full City Council next Wednesday.  But today Mayor Kirk Caldwell pulled his Okino's name from consideration.

"Bottom line he had a position that I think was contrary to many people in the community and definitely the position of Honolulu Hale. It's a form of discrimination and me as a mayor there is no room for any discrimination," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor. "These kinds of statements, particularly in a public position and sitting on the ethics panel, I think it's not acceptable."

Councilmember Joey Manahan didn't object to Okino's comments on when they were said on Tuesday, but he did today.

"You know sometimes it takes a while to digest. Once it does and you do think about it you have to do the right thing," said Manahan. "Everyone is entitled to their beliefs but as part of the first amendment but I think his comments went over the line."

Okino says he isn't going to give in so willingly and may challenge the Mayor's action saying he doesn't want to let down his supporters or his God by giving up.

Okino's opponents are thrilled with Caldwell's decision.  It is the first time a current mayor has revoked a previous mayor's appointment.

Caldwell says he will work on finding a new nominee to replace Okino.

Prior to Mayor Caldwell's announcement, City Council members Ikaika Anderson and Stanley Chang had already stated they were going to vote against Okino's nomination.

"I was appalled by former Councilmember Okino's testimony attacking the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) community in this week's committee hearing, openly professing his 'intolerance' for behavior that he compared with 'murder' and 'drug abuse.'  This kind of prejudice has no place in America, no place in Hawaii, and certainly no place in Honolulu.  His testimony casts serious doubt on his ability to administer our ethics laws impartially.  The City & County of Honolulu's own non-discrimination policy prohibits 'discrimination and/or harassment . . . based on . . . sexual orientation.'  I was off-island when the nomination was voted on in committee, but should the nomination be presented to the full Council on Wednesday, I will vote against it," said Councilmember Chang, in a written statement.

The following is Mayor Kirk Caldwell's full written statement regarding his decision to withdraw Okino's nomination:

"I was extremely concerned to hear Gary Okino's statements to the City Council recently regarding his personal non-tolerance of the gay community. There is no place for discrimination of any kind in city government, and even though Mr. Okino stated he would not discriminate if he was appointed as a member of the Ethics Board of Appeals, I find his position on the gay community to be a problem. Gary Okino was nominated by the former administration. As Mayor of the current administration, it is within my authority to withdraw the nomination. After discussing the matter with Council Chair Ernest Martin, and based on the concerns expressed by members of the City Council, I concur with his recommendation to withdraw Mr. Okino's nomination."

Related Story:

Gay community outraged by Ethics Board appointee's comments

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.