Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii
2009-FEB: Bill HB 444 passes
House Judiciary committee
Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee:
A hearing was held on 2009-FEB-05 for HB 444. If passed by
the Hawaiian House and Senate, and signed into law by the governor, it would
create a system of same-sex unions with all of the rights privileges and
obligations of opposite-sex marriages in the state. 1
Some of the main
presentations are briefly summarized below:
Lt. Governor Duke Aiona (R) opened the hearing, saying that he is opposed to
civil unions because:|
"... this is same-sex marriage under a different name. The people voted ten
years ago to define marriage as between one man and one woman. I urge you, Mr.
Chair, do not pass this bill. If you are going to do anything with this bill,
which is not something that I advocate, because this is such an emotional
issue, which was taken up and voted upon by the people of Hawaii, I would
submit to you that if the committee feels that the people of Hawaii have
shifted in their inclinations towards same-sex voters towards same-sex
marriage that this question be put to the people in the form of a
Constitutional amendment...this is not something that we as public officials
should decide." 2
Surprisingly for a person in his position, he appears to be confused about the
scope of the
constitutional amendment of 1998. It did not define marriage as between
one man and one woman as many religious and social conservatives and their
groups maintain. That is what constitutional amendments in other states did.
The Hawaiian amendment
simply gave the state legislature the authority to define marriage as it
wishes, even if it violates constitution prohibitions against sexual
discrimination. Even if the amendment did confine marriage to one man and one
woman, it bears no significance here; the proposed bill only creates a system
of civil unions, not same-sex marriages.
A spokesperson for the Board of Education supported the bill. He said:|
"The Board of Education's job is to prepare students for a society founded
upon civil law, law which does not discriminate based on race, religion,
national origin, gender, or sexual orientation or gender identity...the Board
is committed to prepare ALL of our students for a pluralistic society, whether
gay or straight. ... How can we expect our students to treat all people fairly
when the state itself endorses public policy that some of them are worth less?
As public officials it is OUR job to endorse policies that declare all people
are equal, a society that values the contributions of ALL its members."
Unite Here, Local 5, a hotel and health care workers union, the
Democratic Party of Hawaii; the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood; the
Unitarian Universalist Church of Hawaii; the state Interfaith Council;
the National Association of Social Workers; the GLBT Caucus of the
Democratic Party; the Hawaii Lesbian and Gay Legal Association; Children of
Lesbians and Gays; the Lesbian and Gay Student Services of the
University of Hawaii, Manoa; American Friends of Hawaii (Quakers);
Filipinos for Affirmative Action; the Women's Center University of
Hawaii, Manoa; the League of Women Voters, Hawaii; and other
university and legal organizations went on record as supporting the bill.|
||Gary Okino, city councilmember opposes the bill, referring to same-sex
relationships as perversion, saying that Christianity is about love, including love
of racists, drug addicts and homosexuals. He concluded with his belief that
the Bible is unchanged from the beginning.|
A representative from the Catholic Conference, the "public policy arm of
the Catholic Church in Hawaii." said that the people have spoken. The
government must not subvert the will of the people. "If reciprocal
beneficiaries are broken, fix them, but do not inflict this sham upon Hawaii's
Alan Spector, chairman of the Family Equality Coalition favors
civil unions. He said that there is nothing controversial about equality. A
December 2008 Newsweek poll shows that 58% of Americans support civil unions
-- an increase from 40% only two years earlier. |
||The Christian Voice of Hawaii opposes the bill. Some of the points
raised by their representative were:|
||Homosexuals are being asked to be treated as a special class.
||Upholding perversion and indecency is wrong.
||Why not give rights to child molesters and racists?
||Civil unions would rip apart the family.
||Civil unions would exacerbate society's tolerance of depravity and
||If civil unions are legalized, there would be a firestorm of outrage.
||The bill, if passed, would start another gay marriage war.
Rabbi Shachmann of Temple Emmanuel, a reform Jewish congregation,
said that those who advocate pro-family policies support HB444. He asked that
the government "...not sacrifice our brother and sisters, our keiki
(children), and our community on the alter of exclusivist, hateful ideologies
disguised as religion. ... Do not allow the outright bigotry of a few
masquerading as followers of a God of love to convince you to continue to
discriminate against the people in this room. I ask this as a Rabbi, as a
community leader, as a citizen, and a human being." (not an exact quote).|
ACLU Hawaii strongly supports the bill. Their representative noted
that ensuring protection for the full diversity of family types in Hawaii would
help the state compete with other American cities and attract high-tech
Representatives from various departments of Brigham Young University,
which is associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(a.k.a. LDS and
the Mormons) recorded their opposition.|
HB 444 approved unanimously by the House
The House Judiciary Committee
approved bill HB 444 on 2009-FEB-05 by a vote of 12
to 0 and passed the bill to the full House for a vote.
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu (D,
Waipahu-Waikele), believes that there has been a shift in the Hawaiian culture
in favor of at least some benefits for same-sex couples. He said:
Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) agreed that:
"The biggest difference is the diverse support. You had a lot of
nonprofits, a lot of attorneys and a lot of churches come out for it. The
churches were a turning point for a lot of the committee members."
are more tolerant, and it is not the defining issue in people's minds. I think the mainstream feeling has changed to say civil unions are fine."
Kim Coco Iwamoto, an attorney and state
school board member, said it was
"... a blatant injustice" that same-sex
couples were denied civil marriages. What are we as elected officials saying
when we perpetuate arbitrary and discriminatory public policy upon our
students, citizens or families?"
Carmen Himenes, superintendent of Hawaii Catholic
"In 1998 the people voted clearly that marriage, which is what the civil-union
bill alludes to for same-sex couples, is to be solely defined as between a man
Garret Hashimoto, chairman of the Hawaii
Christian Coalition, said:
"We cannot confuse our children ... that
unnatural and immoral behavior is now an acceptable part of society."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Derrick DePledge, "Hawaii civil unions backed by a majority in
32 of 51 House members sign on to measure that would legalize partnership," The
Honolulu Advertiser, 2009-JAN-24, at:
Unions Take Center Stage at Hawaii State Capitol.
Same Sex Marriage Right Around the Corner."
Richard Borreca, "Civil-union bill advances," Star Bulletin,
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-FEB-08
Latest update and review: 2009-FEB-18
Author: B.A. Robinson