Long overdue, civil unions are a good start. Yet, the ultimate goal must be one of total equality, which, in the end, will require a legal redefinition of marriage. Equal rights for all demands single-tiered legal protection of sexual diversity identical to those of racial, religious and political diversity.
This values shift has already occurred within the general population. The Pew Research Center recently conducted a poll that found 70 percent of Baby Boomers and young adult Millennials believe the main purpose of marriage is mutual happiness and fulfillment, rather than raising children or anything else.
For anyone who thinks redefining marriage is a step too drastic, history will be the judge, as it was with interracial marriage. Only 60 years ago interracial—or “mixed-race marriage” as it was then called—was illegal in 31 of the 48 states, yet today nobody would argue against the laws that righted that wrong. Substitute same-sex marriage for mixed-race marriage and the issue again is revealed as one of equal rights and justice for all.
Imagine how different Hawai‘i’s rich and diverse heritage would be today if all the küpuna of the past 200 years had been legally denied the right to marry someone of a different race. Personally, my wife, who is of Hawaiian ancestry, and I would have been denied the right to marry, and so would her parents and countless other islanders.
The ultimate goal of the civil rights movement was total equality, just as total equality is now the goal of the sexual rights movement. It will be a righteous day for Hawai‘i when that happens—and it will—most likely through federal legislation legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.