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Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye Dies of Respiratory Complications at Age 88

Robin Marty

Fittingly, his final words were "aloha."  

Politicians in D.C. are joining together to say “aloha” to Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who died of respiratory complications at age 88. Inouye had represented Hawaii in Congress in some capacity since Hawaii was granted statehood back in 1959, first as a Congressman and later as Senator.

As a Democratic ally, Inouye was a reliable vote for LGBT rights and women’s rights to reproductive health care, causing many advocates for choice to mourn his passing.

“Sen. Inouye was a pro-choice champion for reproductive freedom. The people of Hawaii were extremely lucky to have him representing them,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America via statement. “His lifelong pro-choice voting record in Congress reflects his unwavering respect for individual freedom and opposition to political interference in our most personal, private decisions. The legacy he leaves behind is one committed to ensuring that all women could make the reproductive-health care decisions that were best for them and their families. As we mourn the loss of this great leader, we are reminded that our work is far from finished. We must continue to advance policies that reflect his shared principles of supporting a woman’s right to choose.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also called him a champion when it came to civil rights issues in the senate.

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“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 six Senators who in 1996 voted against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a discriminatory policy that allowed gays and lesbians to be banned from military service merely because of their sexual orientation.

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”

According to the Washington Post, the governor of Hawaii will appoint one of three candidates provided by the state’s Democratic party to fill the remainder of Inouye’s term. Senator-elect Maize Hirono, who is replacing retiring Senator Daniel Akaka, will still be sworn in in 2013.

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