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State Republicans introduce pro-tourist bill

by Loren Moreno, editor

 

Following two assaults against gay tourists in Waikiki last month, two local Republicans are calling for expansion of hate crime legislation to include crimes against tourists. Rep. Galen Fox, minority leader from Waikiki, initially introduced similar legislation during the last legislative session (HB 2888) but it failed in committee. Fox said he is renewing his call for the expansion this coming session.

Gratia Bone, an HPU alumna and Republican candidate for House District 21, also supports such legislation. For both Fox and Bone, the proposed law would provide a layer of protection for the tourism industry in general. Fox said that he doesn’t want to see tourists fail to return to Hawai‘i or even avoid coming here altogether because they perceive it as an unsafe destination.

Rep. Galen Fox

 

The hate-crime laws already on the books protect victims of crimes based on religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and nationality. Fox said he thinks legislation should go further: “We realize that some categories of tourists can be victimized, and it would be easier to help them if we classified them as tourist.”

According to Fox, the initial legislation was criticized for making local residents “second-class citizens.” Fox disagreed. “Our residents would be covered by the hate-crime legislation regardless—everyone falls into one of the categories,” Fox said. He said that this legislation is merely about extending additional protection to visitors.

Fox said he was prompted to reintroduce the legislation after a series of beatings outside of Hula’s Bar and Grill, a gay bar in Waikiki. Fox is concerned that someone who is attacked because of sexual orientation may be reluctant to disclose that fact. “Let’s face it, by having tourist as a category of hate crimes, allows someone to avoid having to identify their sexual orientation as a reason,” he said.

Tim Noreuil, a 39-year-old physician on vacation, was attacked in late September outside of Hula’s by three local men. According to Fox, Noreuil was hesitant to divulge his sexual identity as a reason; under Fox’s legislation, the attack would have been considered a hate crime immediately because Noreuil was a tourist. “Violent attacks like these could easily be detrimental to tourism in Hawai‘i,” Fox said. Fox noted a series of violent purse snatchings in 1996, in Waikiki, as reason for a drop in tourists from Asia. “It took us a while to recover from that,” he said. According to the Hawai‘i State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, 2.1 million visitors came from Japan in 1996 as compared to 1.5 million in 2003.

Fox believes this could very well be a bipartisan bill. While the original bill introduced last session wasn’t well received by some, Fox believes the legislation will have a better response this time around. He said, “Once people understand this is about protecting our guests and our biggest industry, they’ll support it.”

 

 

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