Hawaii Least Politically Engaged State, but Some Believe Gay Marriage Debate Could Turn the Tide

Hundreds of people gathered outside the state House on November 6, 2013, to demand lawmakers let the people vote on the legalization of gay marriage, but lawmakers passed the bill and Gov. Abercrombie signed it into law November 13, 2013. (photo by Mel Ah Ching)
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Hundreds of people gathered outside the state House on November 6, 2013, to demand lawmakers let the people vote on the legalization of gay marriage. (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

HONOLULU – NerdWallet released a study this week comparing civic engagement in each state. The study sought to determine which states have the most politically engaged voters.

Hawaii came in last – as the least politically engaged state. Only 58.9 of citizens are registered to vote. Only 51.6 percent of citizens voted in the 2012 elections.


However, some Hawaii lawmakers believe this may change in the 2014 election, depending on the sustainability of the momentum from the same sex marriage debate, which continues to rage at the Hawaii state capitol.

There were more than 1,032 people who testified in person before the Hawaii State House Finance and Judiciary Committee, with 895 in opposition and 137 in support. In the Senate, more than 400 people testified in person.

Many said they had never voted before, but would do so now that they had experienced the legislative process firsthand.

Thousands more submitted written testimony for and against the bill and have rallied at the capitol since October 28, when the bill received its first reading by state Senators on the Judiciary and Labor Committee.

The largest rally was October 28, when groups promoting a public vote on the issue came together for a 5-hour rally that attracted more than 12,000 people on three islands.

Hundreds of people stood outside House chambers on Wednesday, November 6, from about 10 a.m. through out the day, chanting “Let us vote!”

They wanted House members who were about to vote on Senate Bill 1 to legalize gay marriage, to instead pass a bill that would allow them to vote on the issue in the next election. Those in favor of legalizing gay marriage had a smaller presence at the capitol.

After several hours of debate, lawmakers passed the bill to legalize gay marriage on second reading by a vote of 30 to 18 with three lawmakers excused.

Here are the votes:


Speaker Joseph Souki (D – Waihee, Waiehu, Wailuku)
Rep. Della Au Belatti (D – Moiliili, Makiki, Tantalus)
Rep. Tom Brower (D – Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako)
Rep. Denny Coffman (D – Naalehu, Captain Cook, Keahou)
Rep. Cindy Evans (D – Kaupulehu, Waimea, Halaula)
Rep. Faye Hanohano (D – Hawaiian Acres, Pahoa, Kalapana)
Rep. Mark Hashem (D – Hahaione Valley, Aina Haina, Kahala)
Rep. Linda Ichiyama (D – Salt Lake, Moanalua Valley)
Rep. Kaniela Ing (D – South Maui)
Rep. Derek Kawakami (D – Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa)
Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi (D – Diamond Head, Kaimuki, Kapahulu)
Rep. Chris Lee (D – Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo)
Rep. Nicole Lowen (D – Holualoa, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau)
Rep. Sylvia Luke (D – Punchbowl, Pauoa, Nuuanu)
Rep. Angus McKelvey (D – Lahaina, Kaanapali, Honokohau)
Rep. John Mizuno (D – Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley)
Rep. Dee Morikawa (D – Niihau, Koloa, Kokee)
Rep. Mark Nakashima (D – Kukuihaele, Lapahoehoe, North Hilo)
Rep. Scott Nishimoto (D – McCully, Moiliili, Kapahulu)
Rep. Takashi Ohno (Nuuanu, Liliha, Alewa Heights)
Rep. Richard Onishi (D – South Hilo, Keaau, Honuapo)
Rep. Karl Rhoads (D – Chinatown, Iwilei, Kalihi)
Rep. Scott Saiki (D – Downtown, Kakaako, McCully)
Rep. Calvin Say (D – Palolo, St. Louis Heights, Kaimuki)
Rep. Mark Takai (D – Halawa, Aiea, Newtown)
Rep. Gregg Takayama (D – Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades)
Rep. Roy Takumi (D – Pearl City, Waipio, Pearl Harbor)
Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R – Kailua, Kaneohe)
Rep. Jessica Wooley (D – Kahaluu, Ahuimanu, Kaneohe)
Rep. Kyle Yamashita (D – Sprecklesville, Upcountry Maui)
Rep. Henry Aquino (D – Waipahu)
Rep. Karen Awana (D – Kalaleloa, Ko Olina, Maili)
Rep. Mele Carroll (D – Holualoa, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau)
Rep. Lauren Cheape Matsumoto (R – Mililani, Schofield, Kunia)
Rep. Ty Cullen (D – Waipahu, Royal Kunia, Makakilo)
Rep. Richard Fale (R – Waialua, Kahuku, Waiahole)
Rep. Beth Fukumoto (R – Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres)
Rep. Sharon Har (D – Kapolei, Makakilo)
Rep. Ken Ito (D – Kaneohe, Maunawili, Kailua)
Rep. Aaron Johanson (R – Fort Shafter, Moanalua Gardens, Aliamanu)
Rep. Jo Jordan (D – Waianae, Makaha, Makua)
Rep. Bob McDermott (R – Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point)
Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D – Wahiawa, Whitmore, Poamoho)
Rep. James Tokioka (D – Wailua, Hanamaulu, Lihue)
Rep. Clift Tsuji (D – Hilo, Waiakea, Keaukaha)
Rep. Gene Ward (R – Kalama Valley, Queen’s Gate, Hawaii Kai)
Rep. Justin Woodson (D – Kahului, Wailuku, Puunene)
Rep. Ryan Yamane (D – Mililani, Waipio, Waikele)
Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D – Ewa Beach, West Loch Estates)
Rep. Romy Cachola (D – Sand Island, Kalihi, Airport)
Rep. Isaac Choy (D – Manoa, Punahou, Moiliili)

The Senate already passed its version of the bill by a vote of 20-4.

The House and Senate still need to agree on a final version of the bill before it passes both Houses on final reading and is transmitted to the governor for his signature.

The House version gives more exemptions to religious organizations and non-profits to protect them from legal action if they refuse to marry gay couples or let them use their facilities.

Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee, who introduced Senate Bill 1, and passed it out of his committee without amendments on October 28, by a vote of 5-2, has so far been unwilling to provide broader exemptions.

On November 5, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and State Attorney General David Louie said the amendments outlined in House Draft 1 strike a balance between the bill that was introduced by the Legislature and concerns raised in written and oral testimony during public hearings.

“We support the principle that any measure on marriage equity must protect religious freedom, which the Legislature has clearly worked to achieve,” Abercrombie and Louie said in a statement. “The bill as amended is legally sound and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution. We urge the Legislature to pass this bill, which will provide marriage equity and fully recognize religious beliefs in that context.”





  1. If you notice the party affiliations, 6 of 7 Republicans in the House, and all the Republicans in the Senate (!), voted against this measure, so that's 87.5% against. Democrats voted 27 to 12 for it in the House, and I believe, about 20 to 3 for it in the Senate, for a total of about 76% for it. Neither party is unanimous but the trend is clear. If you are now ready to become more politically active, the Republican Party in Convention has resolved in favor of traditional marriage. The Democratic Party's platform calls for "equal marriage rights" to include persons who by nature cannot produce children, thus redefining what most everyone for thousands of years has meant by the term marriage. Choose your party and go help it organize. I'm of the party for traditional marriage and invite you to join us — just sign up on the website and we'll help you get to work in your precinct. Remember, politicians respect only two things — money (they need it to campaign) and votes (they need enough of them to keep winning. Help us show up with either of those (contribute and/or organize your neighborhood and friends/acquaintances) and the leadership will pay attention or change to new leadership of your and our choosing. Part of the reason we're in this fix is the lack of 'political engagement' and that is going to change this coming year!

  2. Therefore, in Boyd Ready's GOP view, all non-procreative marriages must be dissolved and if the Republicans win in 2014, laws will be passed requiring every marriage produce children. This is consistent with the Republicans' entry into the vaginas of pregnant women. Oh Dear……this means that Mary and Joseph's marriage is void in the GOP view……

    • No, you've jumped too far into the argument. Those pairs for which, by the nature of their bodies' form, are incapable of procreating, have for thousands of years, naturally, been thought ineligible for marriage. To push it to those for whom the happenstance of an organic disability might prevent procreation is something few have ever suggested. You'll notice that there are two sides to the argument — simply pushing through to a universal statement in disregard of the difference between a necessary and an accidental disability — won't cut it.

    • Started @ B.O.'s 2008 inaguration. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, has been a huge opportunity to showcase how shockingly bigoted they are about Warren's opposition to gay marriage is a sign of intolerance.
      "We feel a deep level of disrespect when one of the architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination," the group said in a letter to Obama, asking him to reconsider.
      Since then the gears ratcheted in the direction for whinners.and USA is the laughingstock of the world.

  3. This sounds like a story planted by a PR firm – probably touting that nerdwallet survey. Every political scientist will tell you that events like this only reinforce existing voting patterns – they rarely lead to changes in voter registration or election participation. This isnt the 1990s any more – the religious right has lost the culture war on gay issues. If anything, its a positive issue for democrats in most of the country except for the South. Also, the crowds were bussed in by anti-gay religious groups – this wasn't some mass uprising by the public. Polls consistently show a solid majority approved and obviously the majority of representatives who voted for the bill don't fear a backlash. Very few politicians are going to martyr themselves for any cause….

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