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

2013-AUG/SEP:
Cost of a special session of the Legislature.
Governor issues draft bill to legalize SSM.
Anglican bishop issues pro-SSM letter.
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This is a continuation from a previous essay

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2013-AUG-28: Estimated cost of a special session:

The Chief Clerk of the Hawaiian House, Brian Takeshita, computed the cost of a special session of the Legislature, based on the assumption that it would last five days. He estimated $25,800 cost to the taxpayers. Without a special session, the earliest that a marriage equality law could be passed would be sometime in 2014-JAN. According to Honolulu Civil Beat, the cost amounts to 1.9 cents for every resident in Hawaii. In comparison, calling a special session and granting marriage equality to the LGBT community four months earlier would add an estimated $24 million to the Hawaii economy, according to the University of Hawaii's estimate. That is a very large return on investment! 1

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2013-AUG-29: Governor Abercrombie (D) issues draft legislation:

Governor Neil Abercrombie released the draft of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. If it becomes law, it would bring marriage equality to 15.5 states plus the District of Columbia. (The half-state is New Mexico where over a thousand marriage licenses have recently been issued to same-sex couples but the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether the licenses are valid\).

Governor Abercrombie's web site said:

"The bill is based on Senate Bill 1369, introduced in the 2013 regular session, and was drafted in collaboration with legislators, staff and stakeholders.

'We are doing our due diligence to remain open, transparent and accessible on this important issue of equality,' Gov. Abercrombie said. 'Over the coming days, I along with the Lt. Governor, Attorney General and staff will be available to legislative caucuses. Next week, it is my hope to meet with House and Senate leadership to discuss the possibility of a special session'." 2

Its bill's title is the "Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013." 3

In its original form, it is described as recognizing:

"... marriages between individuals of the same sex. Extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive. Permits marriage licenses to be issued beginning October 3, 2013, but solemnizations may begin no earlier than November 1, 2013."

It notes that civil unions in Hawaii:

"... provide the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under state law as afforded to opposite-sex couples who marry. However, these civil unions are not recognized by federal law and will not receive equal treatment to a marriage under federal law." 2 (Emphasis by us)

As noted elsewhere, allowing same-sex couples to marry would give them access to an additional 1,138 federal benefits and protection for the spouses and their children that they do not currently receive.

The draft bill continues:

"... the legislature intends that all provisions of law regarding marriage be applied equally to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples ... "

"When necessary to implement the rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of spouses under the laws of this State, all gender-specific terminology, such as 'husband', 'wife', 'widow', 'widower', or similar terms, shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner." 3

Couples in civil unions would be able to convert their unions to full marriage in person or by mail.

The bill includes the usual clause allowing persons authorized to perform marriage ceremonies to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them with impunity. It grants a liability exemption to religious organizations who wish to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to make a their facilities available, as long as certain specified conditions are met.

Section 571-1 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes would be modified to replace the key phrase:

"... the marriage contract, which shall be only between a man and a woman ..."

with:

"... the marriage contract which shall be permitted between two individuals without regard to gender ..."

Among the other main changes to the marriage act would be:

  • The lists of people who are not allowed to marry because they are ancestors or descendents of each other are changed to make them inclusive of same-sex couples.

  • References to "man and woman" are changed to "parties."

  • Legal same-sex marriages contracted out of state would be recognized in Hawaii. 3

If the bill is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor, some of the above might be amended by the Legislature.

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2013-SEP-02: Anglican bishop promotes same-sex marriage:

Robert L. Fitzpatrick, Bishop of the Diocese of Hawaii for the Episcopal Church, USA, sent a personal letter to the Governor and Legislature 4 Some points that he raised were:

  • "I hope that marriage equality will soon be a reality in our Islands."

  • "I am a signatory of the 'Religious Leaders Support the Freedom to Marry in Hawai‘i' statement recently issued by interfaith leaders of our State. In the statement, we affirmed that 'the freedom of every citizen to practice his/her religion is based on the principle of respect for the inherent worth and dignity of each individual.' As a citizen of Hawaiʻi, I think the extension of the right to marry to all consenting adult couples is an important evolution in our common life as a civil society and an acknowledgement of our broadened understanding of the human condition. It is because marriage is a public institution sanctioned by the state and afforded unique legal protection that the extension of this right to same-sex couples is an issue of justice. Thank you for your leadership in working to extend this right in Hawaiʻi."

  • Drawing on 27 years of relationships with same-sex couples since his ordination, he commented:

    "These families have nurtured healthy, well-adjusted children. This may be because the families have been formed in an environment of faithfulness, mutuality and acceptance. That, I hope, can be true of all couples and families. These couples and families have helped me to see marriage as the legal union of two adult, competent persons who are bonded in a permanent, sexually exclusive friendship. Further I have concluded that when, in addition, a couple makes a public act of commitment before God and the fellowship of Disciples, seeking God’s blessing on the relationship that this can be an honest expression (in addition to that of voluntary celibacy) of the Christian moral standard of human sexuality. As you are leaders in civil society and of the government, I entrust you with setting the course ensuring a full and equal 'legal union' for all the citizens of our State. ..."

    "I strive to teach members of the Episcopal Church to reflect theologically on any presenting issue, seeking to respect the dignity of every human being and loving our neighbors as ourselves. I also know too well that Christians from other traditions will not agree with what I have written and will, in fact, find it disheartening. For that, I am saddened. With this in mind, and understanding that all may not agree, I ask that you act together to make marriage equality a reality in Hawaiʻi as soon as possible." 4

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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. Chad Blair, "Estimate: Special Session to Legalize Gay Marriage Would Cost Just $25,800," Honolulu Civil Beat, 2013-AUG-28, at: http://www.civilbeat.com
  2. "Governor shares draft marriage bill," Governor's web site, 2013-AUG-28, at: http://governor.hawaii.gov/
  3. "A bill for an act relating to marriage," First draft version, 2013-AUG-22, at: http://Governor.hawaii.gov/
  4. Robert Fitzpatrick, letter to the Governor and Legislature, 2013-SEP-02, at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/ This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-AUG
Latest update: 2013-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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