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Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii

2013: Legislature special session considered and
rejected. The economic impact if SSM is legalized.
Mainline/liberal faith groups sign resolution on SSM.
Catholic Bishop of Hawaii issues letter of concern.
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This is a continuation from a previous essay

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2013-JUL-12: Hawaii legislators consider special session to consider same-sex marriage bill (Cont'd):

Michael Golojuch, Jr., (D) who is the GLBT Caucus Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai'i said of a special session:

"We're hopeful. We believe it should happen now.  To make us wait until January is cruel and unusual punishment to the LGBT couples and the children who do not have the protections that they would have now that [Section 3 of] DOMA has fallen." 1

The current law Hawaii allows loving, committed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions which give them most of the state benefits of marriage. However, because of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling during late June on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex married couples in the U.S. have became eligible for 1,138 federal benefits from which couples who were merely "civil unionized' remain cut-off.

Louise Kim McCoy, Communications Director for Governor Abercrombie, said:

"As Governor Abercrombie has elaborated, that needs to be thoroughly reviewed and then we can determine what action would be warranted."

Senator Sam Slom (R) is opposed to a special session. He said:

"If you want to have a special session than have it on something special and that is really important to Hawaii – about our jobs, about our economy, about the taxes, about the roads, about our healthcare – all of these things.  Same sex marriage may be very important to those people who have been lobbying for it for years, but it is not a key issue for the legislature and can wait it's time until next year.  There was nothing in the Supreme Court rulings that dictated that this state or any other state should rush to judgment and have a special session in that issue."

He repeated his view in the "Official Blog of the Hawaii State Senate Minority" on JUL-25. This is also his personal blog since he is the only Republican senator in Hawaii. It may be significant that his article received zero "Likes" from its readers. Unfortunately, he did not allow comments to his report. One day later, a very encouraging estimate was published of the positive financial benefit to the state once SSMs became available. When he became aware of this report, Senator Slom might possibly have changed his mind about the economic benefits of SSM. However we could not find any indication of this on the Internet.

Representative Chris Lee (D) favors a special session. He said:

"I think it's something that's moving ahead across the nation with a majority of support from virtually everybody – particularly younger generations.  I think here in Hawai'i in particular where this debate started so many years ago, we're a state that embraces aloha and diversity -- these are things that are important to us -- and there's no reason to continue discriminating against anybody.  Folks who enter into civil unions here in Hawai'i are accrued state benefits, but at this point don't get the federal benefits, tax status, and a number of other things which they would get if we changed the word 'civil union' to the word 'marriage'."

Michael Golojuch, Jr. (D) chair of the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said:

"The Governor's going to have to show some leadership on this and do it and call for the special session.  We have the votes in the House and the Senate to pass the bill we just don't have the two-thirds to get them to call ... [a special session], so the Governor's going to have to step in. This is a watershed moment for LGBT rights here, and we need him to support us more than ever." 1

The call for a special session seemed to have lost momentum when promoters were unable to obtain the necessary two-thirds support among the legislators to authorize the session. 2 However, by early 2013-SEP support appeared to be growing.

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2013-JUL-26: Financial impact of SSM in Hawaii:

The University of Hawaii's Economic Research Organization issued a working paper on the impact that marriage equality would have on the state. They reported that:

"... in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent DOMA and Proposition 8 decisions. ...we find that marriage equality is likely to lead to substantial increases in Hawai‘i visitor arrivals, visitor spending, and state and county general excise tax revenues due to pent-up demand for same-sex marriage. Over the 2014-2016 period, we estimate that additional visitor spending due to marriage equality would amount to $217 million. The additional gains in visitor spending are time-sensitive: Spending by U.S. same-sex couples and their guests on honeymoons and marriages will be diverted to other states until Hawai‘i recognizes marriage equality."

"Thirteen states -- California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia -- now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Federal government recognition of same-sex marriages provides married same-sex couples living in states with marriage equality access to all rights and responsibilities provided to opposite-sex married couples by the federal government. In these states, same-sex spouses have all rights granted to spouses of veterans, federal employees, and military personnel; they are eligible for federal housing, food stamps, and social security benefits provided to spouses; and they are treated by the federal government as spouses for taxation, bankruptcy, inheritance, student loans, and agricultural loans.

Four states -- Colorado, Hawai‘i, Illinois, and New Jersey -- provide civil unions for same-sex couples, and two states -- Nevada and Oregon -- domestic partnerships, a legal status virtually identical to civil unions. The federal government does not recognize either relationship as equivalent to marriage and the Supreme Court’s recent DOMA decision does not extend the more than 1,000 federal rights granted to married couples to couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships. ..."

"... the estimated magnitude of the additional visitor spending that marriage equality could trigger is substantial—$217 million in 2014 ... [to] 2016 -- and should be considered carefully by Hawai‘i’s voters and policymakers. The benefits from a pent-up demand for same-sex marriage are time dependent. If Hawai‘i waits to adopt same-sex marriage, it will not realize these gains. They will be lost forever, diverted to other states that recognize marriage equality." 3

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2013-AUG-19: Representatives of mainline & liberal faith groups sign marriage equality resolution:

More than 30 representatives of Hawaiian faith groups signed a resolution in favor of marriage equality. Rev. Barbara “Babs” Grace Ripple, a Methodist and widow, said of the LGBT community:

"They did not choose to be gay.  This is how God made them.  Who am I to say that they should not have the same benefits in life that I have?" 5

She is engaged to be married to another Methodist and widower, Samuel Cox who was the director of Hale Kipa for two decades. Hale Kipa is an agency providing a wide range of services for at-risk/high-risk youth. , He viewed many tragic struggles involving gay and lesbian youth. He said:

"Many of these youth were actually throwaways. They were disowned by their families, teased and bullied at school.  Most heart-breaking, they were condemned by their own churches and pastors.  One of those Hale Kipa youth in the early days killed himself.  He felt he had nothing to live for or any future to look forward to.  This was a life changing experience for me and ever since I have been a strong advocate for civil rights and marriage equality for our LGBT friends. 5

State representative Chris Lee (D), who is a strong supporter of marriage equality, commented:

"Everyone agrees that discrimination is something we cannot tolerate in Hawaii.  It is why we are seeing our leaders of faith call to resolve this now, and why we are seeing a tide of courage and compassion rise up throughout the islands," 5

Rep Lee is clearly wrong in his assertion that "everyone agrees" that active discrimination against the LGBT community should be eliminated. Less than a week later, 100 conservative Christian congregations issued a declaration opposing marriage equality. Also, public opinion polls in 2013 have regularly shown that a shrinking minority -- currently about 30% of Hawaiian adults -- remain opposed to same-sex marriage.

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2013-AUG-22: Roman Catholic Bishop Larry Silva writes an urgent letter opposing SSM:

He wrote, in part:

"People with same-sex attraction are a part of our community, even our Catholic community, and they deserve dignity and respect. Unjust discrimination against them is not acceptable. However, not all discrimination -– that is, making distinctions -– is unjust. We discriminate quite justly between adults and minors, even though both have equal dignity. We justly discriminate between those who are married and those who are not, because marriage is a special societal bond that assures the continuation of the race in the context of raising children in the loving environment that appreciates the complementary nature of male and female. (If there were no such discrimination, same-sex marriage would not be an issue, since anyone who wanted to apply for any benefits could do so, whether married or not.) There is just discrimination between parents and children, professors and students. While they are all equal in dignity as persons, they are not equal in their roles. We must therefore be discriminating about the very language of discrimination, because there are those who demonize the word and who presume that any kind of discrimination is unjust. To discriminate between heterosexual and same-sex couples regarding marriage is not, despite the hype on the streets, unjust discrimination. 4

He expressed concern over some further developments that he believes would logically follow marriage equality:

"Our school textbooks will have to portray sexual attraction as normal, no matter to whom one is attracted. When schools have dances, boys will have the choice of inviting a girl on a date or another boy on a date. Our youth, whose sexual identity is formed over time, will be forced to decide prematurely if they are heterosexual or homosexual, thus curtailing normal sexual maturation, with all its stumblings and challenges." 4

Portraying homosexual orientation as normal and natural for a minority of persons is a position taken by all large mental health organizations including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, etc. We are unable to understand why revising school textbooks to reflect the latest scientific conclusions would force teens to do anything -- least of all recognize their sexual orientation prematurely. However, if all three sexual orientations -- heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality -- were taught in school as normal and natural, then harassment, bullying, and violence against sexual minorities in schools should be drastically reduced, and the suicide rate among LGBT youth should drop significantly.

He expressed concern that legalizing same-sex marriage would eventually lead to polygyny (marriage of one man to multiple women), polyandry (marriage of one woman to multiple men), incestuous marriages, adults marrying children, etc. To his credit, he did not mention people marrying animals or people marrying objects like the Eiffel Tower as some conservative commentators have speculated.

He is worried about governments controlling what religious beliefs a person is allowed to hold. He is concerned that SSM would lead to:

"... more poverty, more social ills, more juvenile suicides, and more problems than we can imagine."

No such effects have been observed either in the state of Massachusetts or throughout Canada where SSM has been legalized for almost a decade.

Bishop Silva had an additional concern: that those opposed to SSM would be considered bigots by a growing number percentage of the public.

in America's history there have been at least three instances where groups of couples were forbidden to marry freely by legislation in some states:

  • Prior to the end of the Civil War if they were enslaved Blacks.

  • In the late 19th century and early 20th century, if they were profoundly deaf.

  • Prior to 1967, if they were an interracial couple.

In all three cases, there was great opposition at the time to the redefinitions of marriage to allow these groups to freely marry. In all three cases, after marriage was redefined in law and more time passed, those members of the public who still wanted to discriminate against African Americans, the deaf, or interracial couples became regarded as bigots by most of the rest of the public. Whether this happens in our future over same-sex marriage remains to be seen. The odds seem to be in favor of the general public eventually regarding those opposed to SSM as bigots, in the same general category as racists, sexists, xenophobes, etc. Bishop Silva has a valid concern about how those who follow Roman Catholic teaching will be treated in the future.

Bishop Silva recommends that Catholics contact their legislators and pray for God's intervention in favor of preserving marriage inequality.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mileka Lincoln, "Hawai'i lawmakers consider special session for same sex marriage," Hawaii News Now, 2012-JUL-12, at: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/
  2. "Hawaii Legislature Won’t Call Special Session to Consider Gay Marriage," Associated Press, 2013-JUL-25, at: http://www.edgeboston.com/
  3. Sumner La Croix et al., "The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage on Hawai‘i’s Economy and Government," 2013-JUL-23, at: http://www.uhero.hawaii.edu
  4. Larry Silva, "Honolulu Bishop's Letter on Church's Understanding of Marriage," Diocese of Hawaii, 2013-AUG-26, at: http://www.catholichawaii.org/ This is a PDF file.
  5. "Faith leaders speak out for the freedom to marry in Hawaii," Hawaii United for Marriage, 2013-AUG-19, at: http://hawaiiunitedformarriage.org/ Hawaii’s Congressional delegation
  6. Hale Kipa's web site is at: http://www.halekipa.org/

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Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-JUL
Latest update: 2013-SEP-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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