Recent rulings by the Supreme Court put Hawaii on the liberal side of history, as the United States continues to move forward on inclusion of people from varying backgrounds in equal rights and begins to look at social issues within the context of public safety and the good of the whole community.
Today the Supreme Court allowed abortion clinics to remain open, as Texas had attempted to abolish existing clinics by various challenges to Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court ruling allowing abortion to become legal. Last week the Supreme Court mandated equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. It also underlined Obamacare as legal under the Constitution. These social issues have been part of Hawaii law for many years.
Hawaii has long accepted gay and lesbians to have a variety of social and financial rights with respect to civil unions. Under the last Governor, Neil Abercrombie, gay marriage became law, by fiat as opposed to public vote, however. Yet Hawaii has, for the most part, been accepting of sexual differences and equality, part of that as a function of the Native Hawaiian culture which for centuries has acknowledged the culture of the maheu, the man seeking to live as a woman, as an accepted part of life. Gay marriage, however, remained an issue of debate, despite the more liberal political leanings of the State legislators. Nevertheless, Hawaii’s stance has been one of respectful acknowledgment of social and financial unions of gay couples.
Abortion has been legal in Hawaii for decades, and, in fact, Hawaii was the first state in the nation to allow legal abortions. The specifics are these, as reported by the American Journal of Public Health:
March 13, 1970, Hawaii changed its 100-year-old law on abortion and became the first state in the nation to allow abortion essentially at the request of the woman. The new Hawaii law makes abortion legal if it is performed by a licensed physician in an accredited hospital, if performed before the fetus is viable outside the uterus, and on a woman who has been a resident for 90 days or more immediately prior to the abortion.
While the rest of the country waited for a long time to have guaranteed health insurance following the institution of what has been called Obamacare, which allows for federal subsidies for those lacking health insurance and mandates coverage for everyone, Hawaii has long required employers to carry health insurance for their employees. At the same time, the State has had a state-run program called Quest, which provides for poor and low income persons without health insurance to receive coverage.
On the Waianae Coast, the Comprehensive Health Center serves the local community and turns no one away who needs health services and cannot afford to pay for them.
Hawaii is one of the states that does not allow the death penalty. In fact the death penalty was abolished before Hawaii became a State in 1959. The State legislature has been requested 15 times to reinstate it, and the attempts to do so have been unsuccessful.
The State of Hawaii does allow individuals to own and carry firearms but has strict gun laws with respect to purchase and use. Firearms must be registered, and individuals are required to take a safety course as well. Guns must be registered with the chief of police of the respective counties. Those who have been convicted of a felony or are diagnosed with a mental illness are not allowed to own firearms. Firearms are restricted to the owners residence or place of business. Florida has the one of highest number of gun-related deaths, according to recent reports. Washington D.C. and Louisiana rank #2 and #1 respectively in rate of gun-related deaths. At 2.8 deaths per 100,000 population, Hawaii ranks the lowest of gun-related deaths among all 50 states and is considered to be among the states with the most restrictive gun laws.
As the United States begins to sort out the social issues of modern life, specifically with respect to individual rights vs those of the community and the degree of control over one’s personal life, Hawaii is considered to be among those states that favors individual liberties as important in relationship to how one lives one’s personal life, yet is more restrictive in relationship to those laws that impact one’s relationship with others or the greater culture.
The right side of history might be said to favor the direction Hawaii has moved since it became a State, even as the rest of the country continues to examine which way it will go in many areas. The Supreme Court has issued decisions on abortion, healthcare and marriage rights, all of which are similar to Hawaii’s practice in social legislation.
Hawaii ranks as #1 in quality of life. Perhaps much of this is due to the population’s decision to allow for personal independence so long as that independence does not interfere with the rights of others.