HONOLULU — A man who speaks Hawaiian wants to be able to use the language to take his driver’s license exam and says that his inability to do so is a form of discrimination that goes against the state Constitution.
Hawaiian is considered one of the state’s two official languages, yet Daniel Anthony says he’s unable to use it to conduct business with state agencies.
“Anytime I go to a state office or federal office, I introduce myself in Hawaiian,” he said Monday in English. “I have yet to receive services in Hawaiian.”
Anthony, 35, of Kaneohe, describes himself as “conversational” in the language, having heard his great-grandparents speak it while growing up. After dropping out of Waianae High School, he began formally learning Hawaiian while studying at Leeward Community College.
Anthony said he often works to highlight how the language isn’t used in an official capacity, but getting stopped for speeding on Jan. 25 wasn’t intentional.
He was pulled over for going 41 mph in a 25 mph zone and was cited for driving without a license, according to court records. Anthony acknowledged not having a state-issued driver’s license because the test isn’t offered in Hawaiian.
“I’m not contesting I was speeding,” he said. “I’m unable under the state of Hawaii Constitution to get a license because of my choice to speak Hawaiian.”
A spokeswoman for the state judiciary said her department was preparing a statement about the case, but noted that Anthony was provided a Hawaiian interpreter for court hearings. Court records show he received a Hawaiian interpreter for a March hearing, where he pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor. A Hawaiian interpreter was present for an April hearing, but Anthony didn’t attend.
State transportation officials who handle driver’s license regulations weren’t immediately available for comment.
His attorney, Dexter Kaiama, filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the state constitution upholds the use of Hawaiian, and the state’s courts don’t have jurisdiction over Native Hawaiians, KITV reported.
While the state has recognized Hawaiian as an official language since 1978, “I think the state has been very slow to implement that in a meaningful way,” said Trisha Kehaulani Watson, owner of Honua Consulting, a group of contractors who provide consulting services in Hawaiian culture, education, community relations and environmental issues. “It’s inevitable that we will move toward a bilingual community.”
Anthony said that’s happening with the younger generation, describing how his three children are fluent in Hawaiian and attend language immersion schools.
“I’m very blessed that I have the opportunity to live a cultural lifestyle,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of my generation to follow through on the promises of the past generation.”
Anthony’s family is not unique, Watson said.
“Many families,” she said, “are committed to bringing back the use of Hawaiian language.”