How and when the Fundamental Christian Conservatives became so well organized and politically powerful in Hawai`i is a long, complicated story. Suffice to say here, when the Same Sex Marriage (aka “Civil Unions) issue first appeared in Hawai`i (1990), that was the beginning and once organized, it has been easy for them to direct this same throng to actively oppose Death With Dignity as well.
Believe it or not, the person most responsible for our slim loss in 2002 was the former Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai`i! One can learn exactly how Catholic Deacon Richard Port and the then Roman Catholic Bishop of All Hawai`i, Francis X. DiLorenzo killed our bill in 2002 HERE. And Deacon Port did not stop there! As late as May 29, 2010, Port again worked first behind the scenes and finally out in the open to try and derail our supportive Resolution at the State Democratic Party of Hawi`i Convention at the Hilton Hotel in Waikiki.
After Port’s comments and a brief floor fight, an eloquent statement by our supporter Marsha Joyner brought the 500+ delegates to their feet in enthusiastic, supportive applause. Moments later, our Resolution passed nearly unanimously and was sent to the State Legislature as part of the 2011 Democratic Party Legislative Package. This will in effect bring our bill back to life and encourage the appropriate Senate and House hearings & full floor votes. However, this does not guarantee that our bill will make it all the way through the legislative process. We will need “all hands on deck” to see that it indeed does pass.
Our well-organized opposition, the Hawai`i Family Forum, is largely funded by the Roman Catholic Church — and the Hawai`i Christian Coalition is funded by a large conglomeration of local Fundamentalist Christian churches and their vast mainland organizations. Should one have any doubt about their ability to turn out people when their beliefs are challenged, take a look at the following photo (below) from one of their several 2010 & 2011 anti-Civil Unions rallies at the Capitol building.
Another very formidable organization working against Death With Dignity across the country and in Hawai`i is the large national network of disabled persons, Not Dead Yet and one cannot discount their fears, as misguided as they may be. Some disability rights activists sincerely believe that the increasingly cost-conscious healthcare system would “inevitably respond to legalized suicide by withholding expensive care from the disabled and terminally ill until they chose to end their lives.”
Despite the Oregon law’s many explicit safeguards and the data contained in the annual Oregon State sponsored Death with Dignity Act Records & Reports, Not Dead Yet members remain convinced that our legislation will ultimately lead to the involuntary euthanasia of physically and mentally challenged people. At least in Hawai`i, these truly sincere people have seemingly been co-opted by the Fundamentalist Christians who supply the buses and special transportation to deliver them to and from the State Capitol to meet with individual legislators and to testify at the various hearings. Their mere presence makes a compelling argument with many legislators, particularly those — and there are many — with their own fervent religious convictions. You may view the committed Not Dead Yet activists in action in several of the photos from our 2007 hearing where the bill failed to even get out of the House Health Committee.
All of these opposing organizations continue to grow in political strength. To counter this, we too must grow our own numbers and all must become more politically proactive in order to keep rational information flowing to the general public and to the legislature as our legislation hopefully moves through the arduous legislative process. To do otherwise would be a waste of time and money.
Lest anyone come away feeling that our organization is against anyone’s personal right to worship the deity of their choice, or not, this is simply not true. What I think unites our members is our strong belief in the importance of the separation of church and state in a democratic society, and that those who believe in the supernatural should not prevent my deciding to end my life if and when I choose when facing a debilitating terminal illness. Simply put, if and when I decide that my quality of life has deteriorated to a certain point, I want to be able to control my own death experience. To me, this is where the debate is drawn.
Some of our supporters can give money, others cannot. Some will make phone calls, and others prefer to write letters or testimony. Some are only in the position to lend encouragement. With that said, we can all reach out individually to our friends, family and neighbors who we suspect might support us and bring some of them on board. We will need it all to pass this bill and see it signed into law so please do what you can as you can — but begin today. Again, the time to act is now. – Scott Foster, Communications Director
THE 2011 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION
This was the last time we introduced legislation
We received massive supportive media coverage after the our bill was heard during the 2011 Hawai`i State Legislative Session on Monday, February 7, 2011. Those stories may be read HERE. Thanks to our many loyal supporters who wrote and sent in testimony — and a special thanks to those who appeared at the hearing to personally deliver it! While we are very pleased that our bill indeed received a hearing, the first since 2007, after 5-hours of testimony SB803 was “held” in committee. The good news is, because Hawaii’s legislature operates on a biennium calendar, our legislation remains alive through 2012 and we will not need to repeat all of the hard work expended during the past months. Our challenge now is to educate more of the public and continue to organize and motivate our advocates to help see our legislation advance and indeed pass in 2012. Again, Mahalo to all who worked so very hard to get us back up and running after eight long years without hope! [A Republican governor was in office for 8 years – ED]