WASHINGTON – The ACLU mourns the passing of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and sends its condolences to his family, friends, staff and the people of Hawaii.
Sen. Inouye was a champion of civil rights and civil liberties. He was a decorated soldier, who embodied passionate patriotism in his defense of American values in the United States Senate.
Some of his notable contributions to civil liberties include support for women’s rights and equal pay, support for the preservation of the Voting Rights Act, and support for civil rights laws that included persons with disabilities.
As the first Japanese-American in Congress and the first member of the U.S. House from Hawaii, he was a pioneer. He was also a trailblazer when it came to supporting LGBT equality. He was one of fourteen Senators who in 1996 voted against the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” that discriminates against same-sex couples.
He was a tireless foe of discrimination. The ACLU joined him in his successful legislative battle to get reparations for those Japanese Americans who were wrongfully interned in government compounds during World War II. Sen. Inouye fought every iteration of proposed constitutional amendments to ban flag desecration – support that was particularly meaningful to the defense of free speech because of his military service.
Sen. Inouye’s presence in the United States Senate will be sorely missed.
HONOLULU: (Vanessa Y. Chong, Executive Director — American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii) We say aloha to an indefatigable champion for liberty. Senator Inouye had a long connection with the ACLU of Hawaii. In 1953, he was elected as part of a second effort to get the national ACLU to recognize a Hawaii affiliate. A former student of ACLU of Hawaii founder Allan Saunders – whose mentorship of some of Hawaii’s most visionary leaders is well-known – Senator Inouye marked the retirement of his UH professor in the congressional record in the 1960s and credited Allan’s influence on a generation of public servants who would impact the “political, economic and social destinies of our islands”.
Later, the Senator would donate to the local ACLU of one of the six gavels he used as Chair of the congressional hearings on the Iran-Contra affair in 1987 – it remains a heart-felt reminder of the rule of law he so cherished.