A season of gratitude and change
This is a bittersweet moment as I pen this message to you during my last few months serving as the ACLU of Hawaiʻi’s Interim Executive Director. 2023 has been a pivotal year for the work we’re doing and I’m so grateful for your support as we protect and defend civil liberties in Hawaiʻi.
Last week we hosted our Annual Meeting. Mahalo to those of you who were able to join us. If you were not able to attend, HERE is a link to view the recording.
With you, we were able to fight some good fights, learn from our losses, and make strides toward a better society for all of us. We’re honored that you stood in solidarity with us this past year. As 2023 comes to a close, we celebrate the work made possible with your help and look forward to what lies ahead:
We cannot criminalize our way out of houselessness. That’s why we’re suing Honolulu and Maui counties for their harmful “sweeps” of houseless communities and their belongings in Mahelona v. C&C of HNL and Davis v. Michael P. Victorino, et al.. We also advocated for the elimination of cash bail, decriminalizing low-level and quality-of-life offenses, and policy measures that ensure everyone’s needs are met regardless of wealth. Please check out our recently updated 2023 Legislative Wrap-Up Report, to learn more about our policy work this past session.
As a part of this nationwide campaign, our affiliate is committed to two intersectional goals: reducing the number and rate of incarcerated people in Hawaiʻi by 50% and eliminating racial disparities. As a member of the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Cannabis Reform, we championed legislative victories in clemency and expungement. We also successfully stopped the funding for a “Cop City” and helped support Going Home Hawaiʻi’s Hoʻiwai Reentry Summit. We will always advocate for safer communities, fewer people behind bars, and fewer taxpayer dollars wasted on unnecessary incarceration.
Hawaiʻi’s policing systems do not work. They fail to address the root causes of crime and have long histories of racism, corruption, and abuse of power. This legislative session, we helped pass SB151 and SB372, which requires police departments to be transparent and accountable to the communities they serve. We also remain steadfast in defending the rights of people harmed by police misconduct through Taylor vs. C&C of HNL, HI DOE, et al. and Hall v. C&C of HNL, et al.
LGBTQIA+ Rights, Gender Equity, and Abortion Access
After years of legal advocacy, we finally reached a settlement agreement in our landmark Title IX case for gender equity in high school sports, A.B., et al., vs. HI DOE and OIA. We also celebrated the passing of SB1 which advances reproductive rights in Hawaiʻi and hosted a film screening of “PLAN C” in partnership with Planned Parenthood Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking that highlighted the fight for equitable access to abortion medication. Finally, we announced a new Change 23 Campaign to constitutionally protect marriage equality in Hawaiʻi. Given the assault on transgender communities and abortion access nationwide, we are steadfast in protecting these rights here in Hawaiʻi.
The Path Ahead
Creating systemic change requires a diverse and talented team. I’m so excited to welcome Legal Fellow Samantha McNichols, Policy Assistant Josh Frost, and Development Director Carmela Resuma to our ACLU Hawaiʻi team. Be on the lookout for future messages from Carmela. She is excited to build our community as the year begins, and that starts with YOU!
All this work was possible because of you, our community of members, supporters, and donors who so generously gave of yourself so we could make this immense impact, together. While there’s much to celebrate, we know many challenges and threats to our civil liberties loom ahead in the new year, so we still need your help!
Please remain a part of this critical work by volunteering with us -- legislative session starts next month and it will take our entire village to create the change we want to see.
While my leadership role shifts to another affiliate, I remain in this fight with you. The battles ahead are great, but collectively, our team here in Hawai’i, our Board of Directors, our nationwide colleagues, and most importantly, YOU, have created meaningful change for over a century. Let’s continue to do so together in the years ahead.
Scott T. Greenwood