Hawaii and the LGBT Community
Being one of the best vacation spots in the world, Hawaii gets visitors from every race, color, personality, and sexual orientation. Regarding sexual orientation, Hawaii is an LGBT-friendly vacation spot, with several establishments, accommodations, and festivals especially for gay tourists and couples. Whether you want a gay bar, beach, or inn, there should be one in Hawaii ready to serve you.
Gay in Hawaiian culture
It is noted that same-sex relationships have been part of the Hawaiian culture. There is a special term for this, which is aikane. According to records, even Cook was perplexed to find that even the chiefs had same-sex relations with their aikane. And with other cultures in Hawaii such as the Japanese, Chinese, and Filipinos having cultural references to homosexuality, Hawaii is not really that unfamiliar with the culture of homosexuality.
Safety and community
Hawaii has state laws against discrimination, whether it's due to color, race, sex, or sexual orientation. There are hate crime laws that specifically have provisions for crimes based on gender or sexual preference. As such, Hawaii is a place where gay people are free to express themselves and their sexual preferences.
As for the community, there are several gay organizations in the state to give support to gay people. For example, the University of Hawaii has an LGBT Student Services Office that gives support to gay issues, such as violence or discrimination within the campus. There is also Dignity, a group for Roman Catholic LGBTs. You can also find the Marriage Project Hawaii, a group that supports the legalization of same-sex marriages in Hawaii. One can also find a Hawaii chapter of the LIFE Foundation for HIV and AIDS victims.
Most of the gay community can be found in the capital of Honolulu, as it is the center of culture, education, and events in the state. The gay hotspot in the area is located in Waikiki beach, where several gay establishments set up shop.
On the issue of same-sex marriage
Same sex unions have always been tolerated in Hawaii and on November 13th 2013 same sex marriage was officialy made legal when the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act was signed by Governor Abercrombie.
Before then, the issue of same-sex marriage was barred from the Hawaiian Constitution and formal marriages were restricted to opposite-sex marriages, as it was the result of a people's vote in 1998. Five years prior to that, the Hawaii Supreme Court determined that not giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples is an act of discrimination. So, there was an apparent contradiction between the Hawaiian Constitution with regards to its charters against discrimination and same-sex marriage.
One of the workaround was to distinguish marriages from civil union. In a civil union, the couple is granted the same rights as married couples do. Basically, it opens a door for same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights as married couples without infringing the constitution. This resulted to the House Bill 444 in the Hawaii Legislative. It has already passed the Hawaii House of Representatives, and is in the Hawaii Senate. The deliberation of the bill was met with vigils and rallies from both opponents and supporters of the bill. Much of the concerns about the bill were its similarity or lack of distinction from marriage, thus distinctions have been made and some of the rights mentioned in the bill were proposed to be amended. As of May 2009, amendments to the bill were suggested and were approved by the majority. This meant the bill would have to go back to the House of Representatives to be voted upon once again due to the amendments, or it would be handled by a special House committee.
On January 2012 civil unions were finally legally recognised in Hawaii and thus conveying full marital rights to be both same sex and opposite sex couples.
Hawaii still offers some rights to gay couples through its reciprocal beneficiary relationship program. This program grants couples certain rights, such as inheritance, hospital visitation, and medical care decisions. The requirements of getting a reciprocal beneficiary are simple: one must be of legal age, and one should not be married, or have an existing reciprocal beneficiary with another person. If one is interested to get one, one should just go to the State Department of Health, fill-up the forms, and pay the fee. Once registered, one can enjoy the rights stated in the program within the state of Hawaii. As the requirements do not mention anything about gender or sex, this gives gay couples certain rights like the ones married couples do.
LGBT accommodations and establishments
As mentioned earlier, there are specific gay spots in Hawaii, should you want to meet up with the LGBT community in Hawaii. So if you want to feel comfortable with people with the same preference as you and your partner do, you can visit some of these places.
When you're in the Big Island, you can go to the Aloha Guest House in West Hawaii. This establishment serves primarily gay and lesbian customers so you should feel right at home. If you're in the East Hawaii area, you can go to the Hale Ohia Cottages and the Pamalu Bed and Breakfast. Pamalu is more for gays and lesbians, while the Hale Ohia has a mix of straight and gay guests. The Big Island is great when you want to see the volcanoes, beaches, and the natural landscape, although the gay scene in the Big Island is not as lively as the others. The gay scene is limited to parties at private homes. So, you should contact local groups for any events during your stay.
If you plan to go to Kauai, one of the gay accommodations that you can find is the Mahina Kai Ocean Villa. You can enjoy the natural beauty of Kauai, and also get to learn something about Hawaiian history and culture. Much like in the Big Island, gay establishments are not so big in this island. But the gay community does hold socials and beach parties. You can also get in touch with the local gay community should you want to join in on the party.
When in Maui, some of the establishments you can go for are the Maui Sunseeker and the Maui Coast Hotel. The Sunseeker is more for the LGBT crowd, while the Coast Hotel is for a mixed crowd. Sadly, there are no gay bars in Maui, but the local group is active and usually has events that are open to visitors. There are bars in Maui that hold special events for the gay community. Like with Kauai and Big Island, you should do more research and planning if you want to have some gay parties in Maui.
When it comes to Oahu, you have come to the Hawaii gay central. Aside from the beaches and marine life, Oahu also offers you the liveliest gay spot in Hawaii. For accommodations, you can look up Cabana Vacation Rentals for a mostly gay and lesbian guest list. As for gay bars and establishments, you have lots to choose from. Mostly, these establishments are found in Waikiki Beach. Some of the bars that you can visit are the Angles Waikiki, Fusion Waikiki, In Between Waikiki, and Michelangelo's. These establishments are primarily gay bars with different shows and events each night for the LGBT crowd. If you're in for some adult entertainment, you can also look for P-10A, a private club for men with nude shows and adult films. You can also find gyms, spas, and other relaxation and fitness centers that cater to LGBT customers in Oahu.
If you're planning to take your wedding vows in Hawaii, there are several wedding services that cater to gay couples. For example, you can go to Hawaii Gay Weddings to take care of your wedding planning and services. These services can include food catering and activities that can make the occassion more memorable. As Hawaii is famous for its romantic and memorable weddings, your sexual preference won't hinder you and your partner from getting one of your own. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Hawaii, "commitment ceremonies" for same-sex couples are available here.
Festivals and events
Some of the festivals that one can attend in Hawaii are the gay pride marches and festivals. For example, you can attend the Honolulu, Maui, and Hawaii Island Gay Pride festivals. Another event to look out for is the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, which features films that tackle gay themes and issues.
Be gay and proud in Hawaii
If you're gay, then that should not be a problem in Hawaii. Aside from being assured that your right for self-expression is respected and preserved, you're also assured that you won't be out of place with the gay establishments that Hawaii has. Though the civil union bill was not successful in Hawaii, the state still has provisions that grant some of the rights of married couples to same-sex couples. As such, there is much promise for the gay movement in Hawaii. But for now, you can be sure that a fun and exciting vacation awaits you in the tropical archipelago of Hawaii.