Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii
Testimony before two House committees (Cont'd).
When might same-sex marriages begin?
Representative receives death threat.
2013-OCT-31: Comments by the participants in the joint session of the House Judiciary and Finance Committees (Cont'd):
A frequent theme of the individual testimonies involved the bill's possible impact on the religious freedom of clergy and faith groups who wish to actively discriminate against same-sex couples:
- Representative Sharon Har (D), House Judiciary committee Vice Chair, indicated that she would not vote in favor of SB1 in its present form. She said: "What would the chilling effect be if this bill were to pass as is on religious practices as well [as] religious thought? ... Something that not a lot of people have talked about is the rights of the conscience -- the rights to believe -- to believe what you want to believe -- those are protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. ... At this point it's clear that's not expressly stated in the bill and therefore many people have grave concerns going forward."
She appears to be concerned that a significant percentage of the public is unaware that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution absolutely protects religious beliefs. Thus she feels that SB1 should be amended to include a replication of the First Amendments' protections.
- Jim Hochberg, president of Hawai'i Family Advocates -- a group dedicated to preserving marriage inequality -- gave an unusual interpretation of the bill: that all it protects "... is a minister's desire not to say the following words, which constitute the solemnization of a marriage, 'by the power invested in me by the state of Hawai'i, I now pronounce you man and wife'. That's it. That is the complete scope of the religious exemption. Every other part of a wedding ceremony, every other part of a wedding service, celebration, anniversary, baptism of children -- all of that stuff is not exempt."
His interpretation of the term "solemnization of a marriage"
appears to be unique. A Google search for definitions of "marriage solemnize" finds that the term is generally used to refer to the entire ceremony of a marriage.
- Representative Chris Lee (D), House Judiciary committee member asked: "Do you feel like your religious freedom is being infringed by the current law prohibiting you from marrying same-sex couples, in accordance with your religious beliefs that you cited in your testimony?"
Bishop Eric Matsumoto of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission answered: "Yes, I would like to have the opportunity, as many here today are also sharing, to be able to perform same gender marriages."
- State Attorney General David Louie says that the bill would balance religious freedom while also allowing all Hawaiians to marry and receive all the benefits and protections that the federal government gives to married couples which are currently restricted to opposite-sex couples. He said: "I respect that people have differing views and they feel that they are under attack, but I don't look at this as being an attack on heterosexual couples or any diminishment for them or religious organizations-- I look upon it as giving equality to same-sex couples." 1
Most of the people giving testimony appear to fall into two groups:
- One group feels that marriage was created by God as the union of one woman and one man, This is what their faith group teaches.
- The Hawaiian marriage law should follow the Bible's definition of marriage as their faith group interprets that definition to be.
- Those individuals and faith groups who want to marry same-sex couples are wrong and must not be allowed to do so.
Fear appears to be a common but unstated factor in this debate. The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) has many stories about God sending natural disasters to punish humanity when his wishes are not honored. Some fear that history might repeat itself in Hawaii.
Many who are opposed to SSM are advocating a referendum to "let the people vote."
- The other group feels that marriage is a basic human right that all loving, committed couples should be able to access -- whether by a civil ceremony or by a religious ritual conducted by a clergy person from a faith group that favors marriage equality. Representatives of Equality Hawaii called SB1 "... our generation's defining civil rights." They seek the status that comes with marriage. They also seek the federal government's benefits and protections given to married couples and their children. Both can only be attained via marriage equality. To continue with the system of civil unions would deny Hawaii's "civil unionized" couples access to 1,138 federal benefits which are given to all opposite-sex married couples in the state.
Clearly, there is no possible wording for the bill that is a win-win situation. The legislature seems to be moving towards a bill with two main components:
- Marriage equality, so that any two persons in Hawaii can obtain a marriage license if they are old enough and are not too closely genetically related.
- More extensive protections for clergy, faith groups, individual members, companies in the marriage industry, etc. so that they can actively discriminate against the LGBT community in all aspects of marriage, perhaps including a re-statement of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that reinforces people's religious freedom to denigrate and refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages with impunity.
This is an unsatisfactory situation for both sides. Both groups would fall short of what they would wish to have. But as Otto von Bismarck said in an interview during 1867:
"Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best."
The experience in all other jurisdictions that have achieved marriage equality has shown that if and when marriage equality comes to Hawaii, then those churches, para-church groups, and individuals who were opposed to marriage equality will eventually accommodate themselves to the changes.
2013-OCT-31: Halloween: House hears testimony from the public:
By the morning of OCT-30, 3,700 people had registered to testify in person before the joint meeting of the House Judiciary and Finance committees. Their testimony was broadcast live over the Internet. Only a small fraction were able to speak. Each was given a two minute interval to testify. 15,000 pages of written testimony were submitted. About 11:00 AM, the Capitol's web site crashed due to excessive traffic, and it took an hour to fix it.
Hearings continued on the morning of NOV-01. In-person and written testimony can be read on the Hawaii Government web site at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/
2013-NOV: Possible future same-sex marriages in Hawaii:
If bill SB1 is passed in without amendments, then same-sex couples should be able to obtain their marriage licenses on Monday, 2013-NOV-18. However, the House version of the bill has been amended so that the starting date would be Monday, DEC-02.
According to American Marriage Ministries:
- Couples wishing to marry must appear together at a Department of Health Office.
- Identification such as a driver's license, birth certificate, passport, etc. is required of both parties.
- There is no waiting period before a couple with a license may marry.
- The license fee is $50.
- A license is valid for 30 days. 2
However, you are planning to obtain a marriage license, it would be best for your to check out this information in advance to make certain regulations have not changed.
2013-NOV-01: Tensions escalate. Rep. Chris Lee received death threat for this support of SB1:
Conflict appears to be increasing over SB1. Rep. Chris Lee (D) received a written death threat for his support of SSM. It was placed under a slipper outside his door in his home at Kailua. He said:
"Clearly, when things like this happen, it generally means you’re doing something right. Over the history of difficult issues there’s always going to be people on the fringes who are upset that they’re not getting their way or that people are speaking out against their position, and such is life. ... I think we heard a lot of frustration and even some angry testimony yesterday. So this is a clearly a controversial issue that is going to make everyone tense. ... Anything worth fighting for carries some inherent risk and there’s certainly no reason to keep quiet because of it." 3
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Mileka Lincoln, "Thousands testify at House hearing on same-sex marriage," Hawaii News Now, 2013-OCT-31, at: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/
- "Hawaii marriage information," American Marriage Ministries, undated, at: http://www.theamm.org/
- "Hawaii Representative Chris Lee Receives Death Threat For Supporting Gay Marriage," Huffington Post, 2013-NOV-01, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
Copyright ©2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-OCT-31
Latest update: 2013-NOV-06
Author: B.A. Robinson