Local lawmaker receives death threat over same-sex marriage position

Published: Oct. 4, 2013 at 10:48 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 5, 2013 at 2:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state lawmaker says he's received a death threat over his position on same-sex marriage, as the rhetoric on both sides heats up with just three weeks to go until the special session.

Representative Chris Lee has been a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage from the beginning.

He says he gets countless emails from voters – both for and against – but until recently, had never received a death threat.

"Clearly, when things like this happen, it generally means you're doing something right," said Rep. Lee, who represents Kailua and Waimanalo in the 51st House District.

Lee says the handwritten note was slipped under the door of the home he shares with his parents in Kailua.

"Over the history of difficult issues there's always going to be people on the fringes who are upset that they're not getting their way or that people are speaking out against their position, and such is life.  Anything worth fighting for carries some inherent risk and there's certainly no reason to keep quiet because of it," Lee explained.

According to fellow lawmakers, the public has been anything but silent.

"I think more than anything else it has divided the community further," said Senator Sam Slom, who represents Hawai'i Kai, Kuli'ou'ou, Niu, 'Aina Haina, Wai'alae-Kahala and Diamond Head in the 9th Senatorial District.

Slom is against gay marriage, but says resorting to threats to get a message of opposition across is never okay.

"Over the years, almost all of us have gotten very serious threats about different kinds of issues.  People get very passionate and I appreciate and encourage the passion, but that goes beyond the bounds.  You don't threaten anybody, you don't threaten their family their children or anything else," Slom said.

He believes the passionate reaction from both sides will continue to rise in the coming weeks.

"A lot of things are brewing behind the scenes.  There may even be the possibility of a lawsuit or an injunction to try to stop this," Slom explained.

He says public feedback is critical in determining how lawmakers will vote.

"They've got it in the Senate.  There are maybe five people that are going to be voting against it – I'm one of those five.  But in the House, it is close.  We're talking about a vote or two, but things can change as constituents continue to call," explained Slom,

Lee says it's a welcome discussion.

"I hope people continue to contact us.  The whole idea behind the governor's early announcement was so that everybody has a chance to weigh in, and we expect that to happen.  We've been out in our community talking to folks, fielding phone calls, meeting people in the district and it's exactly the kind of correspondence that we need to be able to make this sort of decision," Lee explained.

Slom agrees public input is important, but says there's a better way to settle the question of whether to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawai'i.

"The easiest thing on something like this? Put it to a public vote. Let the public vote up or down, and I'm perfectly willing—even if it's not my position. Let the people do that," Slom said.

Governor Neil Abercrombie has called a special session to begin Monday, October 28.  Lawmakers say they expect to receive even more phone calls, emails and office visits from voters on both sides of the issue before then.

"Hopefully as this debate continues we're going to have civil debate that focuses on the merits of the issue rather than devolving into any sort of personal attacks," Lee said.

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