Hawaii candidate fights off 'anti-LGBT preacher' claims

A well-known Democratic candidate for Congress who gained notoriety opposing President Donald Trump's travel ban targeting mostly Muslim countries is being forced to explain a decades-old rant perceived as intolerant of gay people.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Doug Chin said he won't "quibble" about what's on a recording posted on YouTube last year, or its context, and has apologized. But he hasn't been able to put the issue entirely behind him.

Chin, 51, the former state attorney general, won fans among Trump opponents in deeply Democratic Hawaii last year when he opposed the administration's move to prohibit citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Hawaii's challenge to the policy is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

That has helped give him the highest name recognition of anyone seeking to represent urban Honolulu in the House. But now he's responding to claims of being an "anti-LGBT preacher."

A YouTube user called Hawaii Politics posted a 39-second audio clip of Chin speaking — and in parts screeching — about the Bible and faith. The audio is from 1995, when Chin said he worked as an intern for the Oahu Church of Christ after graduating from law school.

It's not clear who is behind the Hawaii Politics account, which has only one other post — a video that's also critical of Chin. The account does not list identifying information.

The 1995 video begins with Chin shouting: "To think that you know better than the creator of the universe on how to deal with your family," Chin says. "'But, but, but, but, but, but, but my family taught me something different,'" he continues, role-playing someone objecting to scripture. "'My family taught me something different from what the Bible teaches.'

"Well, OK, the Bible is right, your family is wrong. Is there any shame in that? What's so bad about that? God is right, your family is wrong," he answers.

Kaniela Ing, a state representative from Maui running against Chin for the Democratic nomination, said the recording was "scary." He accused Chin of having bigoted views and then flip-flopping in time to run for Congress, something he termed "insincere and opportunistic."

Chin says he is sorry "for making anyone feel like something was wrong with them because of who they loved or how they identify." When asked whether he was apologizing for what he said, or for making people feel uncomfortable, he said "both."

Ing, 29, also criticized Chin's church for hosting what he called a "gay conversion therapy" seminar in 2016. The seminar's speakers were from Strength in Weakness Ministries, whose website says it aims to support gay people as they resist same-sex urges. Ing said Chin "has defended the church's extremism."

Chin said he wasn't involved in the Strength in Weakness seminar and didn't attend. He said he has heard the speaker on another occasion.

Chin and his pastor, Anthony Galang, said Chin doesn't have a leadership role in the church, though he assists with its music ministry. One video posted online from 2016 shows Chin leading the congregation in song.

Chin said he would tell the younger version of himself to "live a little more and have a few more life experiences." He said his work through the decades has brought him in contact with people from different walks of life.

"What's changed for me in the past 25 years has been Hawaii. I think Hawaii has really changed me, and taught me a lot about what diversity is, inclusiveness and ultimately aloha," Chin said.

Michael Golojuch, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii's LGBT caucus, said the recording would be problematic if Chin didn't have a record of advocating for LGBT rights.

He noted Chin led other attorneys general in filing a brief to the Supreme Court in support of a gay Colorado couple who sued after a baker refused to sell them a wedding cake. Chin also led an effort by 19 attorneys general to support congressional legislation prohibiting discrimination against transgender service members, Golojuch said.

"This idea that we would not embrace someone who evolved and has a track record of evolution would be idiotic of us," Golojuch said. The caucus will decide on its endorsement of a candidate after a forum on Saturday.

Chin, Ing, and two other Democrats have raised money for the race as of Dec. 31, according to the Federal Election Commission. No Republican has filed to run.

The primary election is scheduled Aug. 11. The winner of the Democratic primary is heavily favored to win in November.

The candidates are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is stepping down to challenge Gov. David Ige in the gubernatorial Democratic primary.