Hate-crime law may add category to cover 'transgender'
By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
Hawai'i's hate crime law would be expanded to protect transsexuals, transvestites and other "transgender" people under a bill expected to be approved by the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.
Amy Kali Donahue, a 30-year-old University of Hawai'i graduate student, told the committee she was born male but lives as a woman "in a medically supervised, medically endorsed and generally successful effort to establish mental health.
"I use the qualifier 'generally' because although I am more at peace with myself, and am better able to concentrate on my relationships and my academic studies as a result of this treatment, I am a continued target of hatred by certain members of this society," Donahue said.
Deputy Public Defender Susan Arnett said the measure appears to have good intentions but seems to be difficult to apply in the criminal process. She said a new category of "gender identity or expression" is not specific enough and could be widely interpreted.
Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa said she plans to recommend that the committee pass the bill, which she said is "just the next step."
"It's really to me just an expansion of the existing definition to include a group that has fallen through the cracks," she said.
Hanabusa also said she's inclined to pass a bill that would close a loophole that allowed a man accused of taking video shots under women's skirts last year to avoid prosecution.
Senate Bill 1107 would expand the scope of violation of privacy to include recording or broadcasting without consent a person's "intimate area" underneath clothing in a public place. The bill follows a case in which law authorities said Tyler Takehara, 49, placed a video recorder in a bag and took video shots under women's skirts as they were riding escalators at Ala Moana Center.
Prosecutors said current privacy statutes, which prohibit secret cameras in private places, didn't apply to Takehara's case.
Arnett of the public defender's office said she has no problem creating a law to cover such cases, but warned that the language should be made more specific to keep other actions, such as filming a dance recital, from being classified as a privacy violation.
Hanabusa said the Takehara case is "clearly an invasion of privacy."
"It's not something that a person should be reasonably expect(ing), that as a consequence of getting on an escalator in a skirt, somebody could drop a bag on a lower escalator step to photograph up one's skirt," she said. "I think it's really a loophole."
The Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee will vote on those and other measures Monday.
Reach Lynda Arakawa at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 525-8070.