HONOLULU (AP) — The chair of a parade honoring a Native Hawaiian leader and prince said Friday a state lawmaker won’t be allowed to participate in the event after he questioned a middle school principal’s display of a pride flag supporting LGBTQ+ people.
Kūhiō Lewis, the chairperson of the Prince Kūhiō Parade, said he notified Republican state Rep. Elijah Pierick of the decision in a letter.
“The LGBTQ+ and mahu community is an essential part of the fabric of Hawaii that we all know and cherish,” Lewis said in a statement. In Hawaiian language and culture, “mahu” refers to someone with dual male and female spirit and a mixture of gender traits.
The parade is scheduled to be held in Kapolei on Saturday. Lewis is also the CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which is organizing and financially supporting the parade.
“Rep. Pierick’s commentary is hurtful, not aligned to the cultural values that we work to promote, and will serve as a distraction to honoring a true leader of Hawaii, Prince Kūhiō,” Lewis said.
He said Pierick will be removed from the parade lineup. Lewis said he looked forward to educating Pierick on the significance of mahu and LGBTQ+ culture in Hawaii.
Piereck responded, saying: “I appreciate the perspective of the private entity that leads the parade and I honor their decision in who they invite to be in the parade.”
Lewis’ statement comes after Pierick posted a video on Instagram relaying how he visited Ewa Makai Middle School and saw what he called “a LGBTQ flag” outside of the principal’s office and other offices in the school.
“You might be thinking yourself, What does that flag actually represent? What is it conveying to our middle school students? This is what it means: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, plus,” he said.
“Are these the kinds of concepts and lifestyles we want to be conveying to our middle school students? Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all year round?,” he said.
He urged people with thoughts or concerns to contact the school principal, and he posted the school’s phone number and her work email address.
“I believe my constituents have the right to know what’s going on in the school. What kind of symbols are being promoted and what kind of messages are being conveyed to the students?” Pierick said.
Piereck is a first-term legislator representing Kunia and Honouliuli. His district doesn’t include the school but is nearby.
State Sen. Kurt Fevella, a Republican whose Ewa Beach district includes the school, posted a video on Facebook asking Pierick to apologize. He urged people to vote Pierick out when he is up for re-election in two years.
Fevella said teenagers contemplate suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse because they don’t feel safe at school, at home and in their communities. He said they need to feel safe.
“We are losing our children, Facebook fam, because we get people like that. We get people like that judging our community,” Fevella said.
Pierick said he appreciated Fevella’s thoughts and perspectives.
“He stands on the foundation of the First Amendment of freedom of speech. So I want to advocate his ability to speak freely. I encourage the community of Ewa Beach to watch original video, and make the conclusion for themselves of what they think the message is conveying,” Pierick said.
The Prince Kūhiō Parade honors Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, who was born in 1871.
He went into exile after the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. But he returned years later and in 1902 became a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives in Congress, where he served for two decades.
He is credited with spearheading a law setting aside 200,000 acres of land to create homelands for Native Hawaiians.
March 26 is a state holiday in his honor, which will be observed on Monday.
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