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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

2010-JAN: Bill HB 444 returns to Senate

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Scope of Bill 444:

As originally written, Bill HB 444 would allow loving, committed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. This would give them all of the rights, privileges and obligations that married people receive. However, they would still not be allowed to marry. This type of bill is often called "everything but marriage" legislation.

In Hawaii, a constitutional amendment defines marriage as a union of one woman and one man.

Religious and social liberals, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, & transsexuals, civil liberties advocates and others generally support the bill. Many regard it as the first step towards same-sex marriage -- an institution that has a long history among Hawaii native peoples, but has been absent since the early Christian missionaries suppressed it.

Religious and social conservatives are almost universally opposed to the bill. Many regard civil unions as a form of same-sex marriage and a threat to what they call traditional or natural marriage.

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The following comments were taken from responses to a Star Bulletin article on civil union legislation on 2010-JAN-17: 1

bullet DWWashburn posted: "How many people rallying at the capitol [against civil unions] will also be marching in the MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.) day parade tomorrow and won't get the irony?"

bulletseeker414: "Clearly God states His standard of what is right and what is wrong. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, 'Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God'."

bulletkieranemk: " 'You can tell you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do' – Anne Lamott on the subject of selective conservative Christianity."

bulletManini: "The proponents of HB444 have already stated that it is merely the first step towards full marriage rights."

bulletk6tmk6: "... the Catholic church in NJ fought hard against marriage equality saying that civil unions adequately protected same sex couples...why is the same church taking a different position here in Hawaii? There's no logic here. How many in this crowd would vote to 'kill the gays' like their friends in Uganda? At what point will they realize that they can't make gays and lesbians vanish into thin air. Maybe they need to meditate on MLK's message and then watch Schindler's List one more time."

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2010-JAN-17: Activities for and against HB 444:

Two thousand white-shirted demonstrators opposed to civil unions held a demonstration at the state capital in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The rally was organized by the anti-gay rights group Hawaii Family Forum. Participating were. Lt. Gov. James Aiona, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and several state lawmakers. Hundreds of others rallyied at the State Building in Wailuku in Maui. Similar events were held elsewhere in Hawaii.

An interfaith service was held at St. Clement's Episcopal Church and attended by about a hundred civil union supporters.

During the previous week, Catholic Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu issued a letter that called civil unions "simply a euphemism ...[for] gay marriage." He urged the 220,000 Catholics in his diocese lobby against the bill. He noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that all "unjust discrimination" against persons with a homosexual orientation must be avoided, he wrote that not all "discrimination' is necessarily unjust. He continued: "Some is quite justified because it is based on reality and truth. While every person, no matter his or her sexual orientation, is worthy of dignity and respect and has certain inalienable rights given by the Creator, there is no right for people of the same sex to call their unions marriage."

Bishop Silva may be unaware that bill 444 specifically differentiates between marriage and civil unions, and denies same-sex couples the right to marry.

Polls with conflicting results have been taken by various advocate groups. There have been no independent polls conducted. 2

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2010-JAN-19: Status at the start of the 2010 legislature:

At that time, loving, committed same-sex couples could not marry. They could not enter civil unions which would give them the same state's rights as marriage except the right to call their union a marriage. They could register for a "reciprocal beneficiary relationship" which has some of the rights and benefits that are given automatically to all opposite-sex married couples. If they have on the order of US $10,000 available, registered couples could then go to a lawyer and have a contract prepared that gives them some additional protections.

In its original form, Bill HB 444 was overwhelmingly passed by the House in 2009 with 33 votes (65%) in favor, 17 opposed and 1 "excused."

During 2009, A last-minute amendment was made to the bill in the Senate. It then passed comfortably through its first reading with a vote of 16 (64%) in favor and 9 opposed. However, the vote was taken on the closing date of the 2009 legislature on 2009-MAY-08. There was no time left to harmonize the House and Senate versions. Thus, the bill was held over for reconsideration until the 2010 legislature.

The Bill would extend "... the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union." Either a same-sex or an opposite-sex couple could enter a civil union. Same-sex couples would still not be allowed to marry.

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2010-JAN-22: House Bill 444 considered by the Senate:

House Bill 444, as amended in the closing days of the 2009 session, came up for a vote in the Senate in 2010. Governor Linda Lingle (R) has refused to say whether she would pass or veto the bill if it came to her desk. However, one sign that she might veto the bill is that she believed that lawmakers should abandon HB 444 and concentrate on the economy. 3

House Speaker Calvin Say commented: "If they [the Senate] have the votes to pass it, we will bring it to the majority caucus."

Debi Hartmann, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said that the amended version of HB 444 would simply extend reciprocal benefits to couples who form a civil union; it is not a same-sex marriage bill. She said: "I struggle with this outrage on the new Senate-amended bill. It is the compromise everyone was asking for. ... [The new version] takes marriage out of the bill. ... I don't believe we as a society in Hawaii are a single-issue society and won't allow one issue to determine whether you are a viable legislator."

According to the Star Bulletin newspaper: "Conservative Christian groups are promising to flood the Capitol with thousands of HB 444 opponents to get lawmakers to kill the bill."

Dennis Arakaki, director of the anti-gay rights Hawaii Family Forum and the Hawaii Catholic Conference said: "We really want to raise the level of voters participation. I think this is the kind of issue that will make people care. We are going to be a little more aggressive in letting people know where the candidate stands."

Jo-Ann Adams, secretary of the Democratic Party's Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) caucus said that they:

"... will be doing our best to support candidates who voted for civil unions. We will focus our efforts where there are opponents to legislators who supported the party platform on civil unions. Because we have a long-standing relationship with most legislators, we will be seeking their guidance on how we can best help in their campaigns."

A vote on HB 444 was expected to be less supportive of the bills than the vote in 2009, because 2010 is an election year and most legislators will be seeking re-election. There are many voters who are opposed to civil unions and would be inclined to vote against a politician who supported them. The number of voters who would benefit from a civil union law and who would be inclined to vote for a politician who supported the bill is probably much smaller. Of course, young children of same-sex couples would also be a major benificiary of protections under the bill. However, they are too young to vote.

The Star Bulletin newspaper came out against the bill on the grounds that the economy of Hawaii is in such a desperate state that the Legislature cannot "... afford the risk that it will get sidetracked by another round of debate on the issue of same-sex marriage." 4 That is, the economy trumps human rights. They seemed to believe that the state cannot have both.

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Site navigation:

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

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

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References used:

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

  1. Richard Borreca, "Civil union debate could spur political action from all sides," Star Bulletin, 2010-JAN-17, at:
  2. "Thousands rally against possible civil union vote this week in Hawaii," TowleRoad, 2010-JAN at:
  3. Decision by Friday on civil unions bill," Star Bulletin, 2010-JAN-26, at:
  4. Richard Borreca, "Civil union debate could spur political action from all sides," Star Bulletin, 2010-JAN-17, at:
  5. Hilary White, "Hawaii Faces Same-Sex Civil Unions Vote Today,", 2010-JAN-19, at:

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-JAN-20
Latest update and review: 2010-JUN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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