No one expects to be banned from a public library. Carlos
Hernandez didn’t and certainly not for the reason he
was given. According to Lois K. Perrin, legal director of ACLU
Hawai‘i, on May
18, Hernandez was surfing the Internet at the Hawai‘i
State Public Library when he was asked to leave by a security
The guard said the Web site Hernandez was surfing was “pornographic.” Under
the authority of Act 50, passed by the Hawai‘i State
Legislature last session, Hernandez was told that he was not
allowed to return
to the state library for a year or he would be arrested.
Hernandez was chatting on www.gayHawaii.com,
a resource Web site for gay and lesbians in Hawai‘i.
According to Ken Miller, executive director of The Center—a
Honolulu organization providing programs for gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender
members of the community—the Web site is not pornographic
at all. Kalamalama independently confirmed that no pornographic
material appeared anywhere on the Web site.
So why was Hernandez banned from the state
According to Miller, the security guard
may have simply been offended by a photograph of a shirtless
man or possibly the
Hawai‘i” banner on the website. The security guard,
in this case, has the authority under Act 50 to both remove
and ban people from the library. So too does anyone else who
for the library or any other public agency—from their
directors to their janitors. “This is a very bad law
that allows the police and others to continue to oppress the
views of the gay…community,” said Miller. His view
is limited. The law allows any public employee to ban anyone
for any reason.
For Perrin, this case is a question of constitutionality.
The law, deemed the “squatters’ law,” was
initially intended to address homelessness in public areas.
Perrin said, “Its
enforcement has not been so limited.”
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hernandez
and others charging the squatters’ law is unconstitutional. “This
statute is a classic, standardless law in blatant violation
of the United
States and Hawai‘i Constitutions,” Perrin said.
Attorney General Mark Bennett, a plaintiff
in the lawsuit, has been reported as saying that he believes
the law is necessary
and has said the state would not impinge on First Amendment
Miller disagrees, and points to the Hernandez case as proof. “Historically,
the queer community has been oppressed by the institution of
discriminatory policies,” Miller said. Miller pointed
to examples of New York City in the ‘40s and ‘50s
when gay and lesbians were arrested merely for walking down
Street in the heart of the gay and lesbian neighborhood. “Bad
laws like this one could take us back to those days,” Miller