Openly gay Hawaii State Representative Jo Jordan made headlines this week when she voted against the Hawaii same-sex marriage bill. According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Jordan was the first openly gay legislator in the country to vote against a marriage equality bill.
Hawaii stands on the brink of passing Senate Bill 1, becoming the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Jordan spoke to Honolulu magazine on the reasons for her decision.
It is not that Jordan is paradoxically against same-sex marriage, but rather that she doubts the law’s strength. “When you look at a measure, you have to consider, how do we make this the golden standard, as bulletproof as possible?” Jordan told Honolulu magazine.
Though she does not publicly adhere to a particular faith, Jordan took issue with the narrowness of the religious exemptions.
“I’m not here to protect the big churches or the little churches, I’m saying we can’t erode what’s currently out there. We don’t want to scratch at the religious protections at all, because if we don’t create a measure that’s bulletproof, or as close to bulletproof as possible, then the measure will go to the courts. And they will interpret it however that may be. A judge will make assumptions and make a ruling, and that will become the law of the land. So you really want us to create the legislation.”
She also believed the law’s stipulations on divorce and on parental maternal rights were flawed. “We’re talking about creating equity,” Jordan said, claiming that the provisions related to both issues were unfair.
Jordan has been criticized and even scorned by many in the LGBT community for her decision, but she stands by her thinking. “It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about, are we creating a measure that meets the needs of all?”
Jordan implied that she had never wanted to be defined by her sexuality. She recalled that during the debate on the Defense Of Marriage Act in Congress, many groups asked her to be the “face” of their activism.
“I was honest with them: ‘That’s not what I want to do.’ I’m a legislator first and foremost, and I’m not here to promote your pride. I’ve got to do my duty first and I don’t want to seem biased. It’s about your work. Vet all the issues, put your personal stuff aside and let’s see where we’re going with this measure.”
Besides the dramatic public backlash, it was a low-stakes vote for Jordan. The bill is virtually certain to pass.
The law is likely to be approved by the full House Friday evening for the final time. The bill then goes back to the Senate where amendments made in the House will be considered. The Senate can choose to adopt the House version or form a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to iron out differences.
Read full interview in Honolulu magazine