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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

2009-FEB: Bill HB 444 passes
House Judiciary committee

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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:

bulletLt. 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.

bulletA 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."
bulletUnite 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.
bulletGary 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.
bulletA 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 Catholics."
bulletAlan 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.
bulletThe Christian Voice of Hawaii opposes the bill. Some of the points raised by their representative were:
bulletHomosexuals are being asked to be treated as a special class.
bulletUpholding perversion and indecency is wrong.
bulletWhy not give rights to child molesters and racists?
bulletCivil unions would rip apart the family.
bulletCivil unions would exacerbate society's tolerance of depravity and sickness.
bulletIf civil unions are legalized, there would be a firestorm of outrage.
bulletThe bill, if passed, would start another gay marriage war.
bulletRabbi 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).
bulletACLU 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 workers.
bulletRepresentatives 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.
bullet"Keori," who was reporting the hearing live to "Pam's House Blend" blog wrote:

"The last testimony broke my heart. A young girl, looking 17-18, got up in front of the committee, and told the story of her older sister, who is getting married this summer. She broke down and began to cry as she told her legislators that while she is happy for her sister, she is heartbroken because she, being gay, will never have the same chance to marry the person she loves. She sat there, tears streaming down her face, and begged them, 'Please, please don't make me leave my home and family and move somewhere else so I can have the same rights as my sister. Do you really want the children of this island to have to leave? Don't we matter, too? Please don't force me to leave my home.' People in the room, including several committee members, teared up." 2

HB 444 approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee:

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:

"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."

Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) agreed that:
"...people 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 Schools said:

"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 and woman"
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."

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > HI > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > HI > here

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Hawaii State Legislature, HB444 HD1," Generated 2009-FEB-17, at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/

  2. Derrick DePledge, "Hawaii civil unions backed by a majority in state House
    32 of 51 House members sign on to measure that would legalize partnership," The Honolulu Advertiser, 2009-JAN-24, at: http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/

  3. Eva Andrade, "Civil Unions Take Center Stage at Hawaii State Capitol. Same Sex Marriage Right Around the Corner." Hawaii Reporter, 2009-JAN-30, at:  http://www.hawaiireporter.com/

  4. "Keori," "LIVEBLOG: Hawaii Civil Unions Bill First Public Hearing,"  Pam's House Blend, 2009-FEB-05, at: http://www.pamshouseblend.com/

  5. Richard Borreca, "Civil-union bill advances," Star Bulletin, 2009-FEB-06. at: http://www.starbulletin.com/

Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-FEB-08
Latest update and review: 2009-FEB-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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