By Rich Figel
In the workplace, you can't discriminate against an employee because of their race, religious beliefs or gender. I mean, not legally. We all know it still occurs. But morally, most of us would agree it's wrong. So how can anyone deny equal civil rights to people based on their sexual orientation?
Thankfully, many forward-thinking companies and even some states have recognized that simple truth and given same-sex couples the same benefits that hetero-married people like my wife and I receive. As far as I know, those businesses haven't suffered and the sky hasn't fallen yet in states with civil unions.
Yet look at Arizona, which is now being boycotted for its law targeting illegal aliens -- foreigners, in other words. More specifically, foreigners from certain countries south of the border. I doubt any white European visitors will be questioned by police on the grounds of "reasonable suspicion" that they might be illegals. Arizona is already losing convention business and tourism dollars thanks to their attempts to legalize racial and ethnic discrimination.
Imagine if Hawaii tried to impose a law that gave police the power to question anyone who might look like an illegal foreign worker! Ridiculous, right? The majority of people in this state would be considered suspects in Arizona. Yet where are the Tea Party protesters when it comes to protesting about the loss of liberty in this instance? Nowhere, because "foreigners" are convenient scapegoats for lost jobs -- jobs most of us would not want to do. In Hawaii, we're blessed to have a multi-cultural society that has assimilated immigrants from many countries. I'm not ashamed to embrace the rainbow as a symbol of what these islands represent.
I bring these issues up because apparently none of the other Advertiser bloggers or journalists over at CivilBeat.com want to go there. And also because there are very real economic impacts associated with discriminatory practices, whether it's based on race or sexual orientation.
Travel industry professionals know the gay market is a highly desirable demographic for any visitor destination. On average, they make more money and spend more money. Also, they tend to dress nicer and have better manners than a lot of the yahoos who applaud Arizona's closed door policies for people of a certain color or language accent. I suggest those folks should bypass Hawaii (too many foreigners!) and spend their vacations in Arizona, since that state is going to be losing mucho dineros in tourism revenue.
On the other hand, if Gov. Lingle truly cares about helping improve our state's economy, she would be wise to sign HB 444. We could use a boost in tourism not just from gay travelers -- but all foreigners and Americans who still believe this country was founded on principles of equality and fairness for all. It would also show Hawaii is still a place that welcomes diversity.
It's not just a matter of doing what is morally right. It makes good economic sense to practice what we preach. "Live Aloha" shouldn't just be a saying on a bumper sticker.
Today's relevant link:
Awhile back at the Star-Bulletin, I wrote this piece about diversity and the upside of being "different." Here's my column on The 10 Percent Theory ("We're Here, We're Weird, Get Used to It").