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Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

Reactions to Bill HB444 after its approval by the
Legislature. Governor hears from both sides.

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Some reactions to the bill's passage:

  • Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai) said that: "This is unfair and untimely. This is going to cause chaos in the community." 1

  • House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro said: "I'm extremely, extremely proud of this day, because Martin Luther King said it best: 'The arc of history is long and once and a while you get to bend it correctly.' ... Thursday we bent it in the right direction toward justice." 2

  • Honolulu City Council Charles K. Djou, (R) who is running in a special election in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District with support from the Tea Party group, said:
    "Hawaii voters have spoken very clearly in support of traditional marriage. ... [The legislature] clearly and blatantly ignored the will of the people of Hawaii on this issue."1
    He seems to be referring to the Constitutional Amendment that defined marriage as the union of one woman and one man. However, HB 444 does not create access to marriage for same-sex couples; only civil unions. Citizens of Hawaii have never voted on civil unions.
  • Debi Hartmann, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said the amended version HB 444 simply extends reciprocal benefits to all who form a civil union. It is not a same-sex marriage bill. Hawaii already has a constitutional amendment that permitted the legislature to restrict marriage to a union of one woman and one man. She said:

    "I struggle with this outrage on the new Senate-amended bill. It is the compromise everyone was asking for. ...[the new bill] 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."

  • Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2010-Fall, wants the bill vetoed. He said:

    "If the Legislature wanted to establish the equivalent of same-sex marriage, they should have put it on the ballot for the people to decide. This bill should not be allowed to become law.

  • The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly issued a statement:
    "UHPA has strongly urged Governor Linda Lingle to not veto House Bill 444, H.D.1, S.D.1 regarding civil unions. We encourage all members of the faculty and the community–at–large to join us in urging the Governor to allow this measure to become law in the name of equal justice and civil rights." 1
  • On 2010-APR-30, shortly after the bill's passage, The Rev. Marc Alexander, vicar general of the Roman Catholic diocese, said:

    "We are disappointed, and we hope and pray the governor will veto the bill, both because of the content"which is marriage in disguise"and because it is poor legislation." 3
  • The Rev. John Heidel, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii, said:

    "We have a great sense of relief and happiness for all of those people in our community who, in the past, have been denied their civil rights and who can now enjoy full benefits of citizenship. ... "We are religious people who have supported it for all this time. We are encouraged by this important decision for justice." 3

  • J.N. Musto, Executive Director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) sent a letter to Governor Lingle asking her to not veto HB 444. He said:
    "Our board, speaking on behalf of the faculty members of our organization, strongly believes that this measure is a statement for both equal justice and human rights. There is no reason to segregate out a portion of our population from the privileges received by others through committed relationships. ... As you prepare to leave office, please do not veto this bill and have it as a part of your lasting legacy as Governor." 4
  • Tambry Young of Equality Hawaii, a group that favors the bill, said:

    "I was always optimistic that it would be addressed because an issue such as this one should never be just let go. ... I think it does show that this is an important issue to many people throughout the state. Again we would go back to the importance of providing equal justice for all the families. ... "I believe she [Governor Lingle is] a fair individual and will look at this and take everything into consideration." 5

  • Elwin Ahu, pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Oahu, an opponent of civil unions, said:
    "There are some concerns the way the bill is worded, some ramifications and consequences that will come about because of it. ... We don't see it as a battlefield of one against another. We're just looking for what is right for the community. What is the best, given the time and circumstances we live in. ... I believe the governor is a very intelligent woman. She has already studied the issues." 5
  • Buddhist Bishop Thomas Okano welcomed the legislation. He said:

    "Buddhist teaching emphasizes the importance of equality among all beings. It is really common sense in a way. We are all equal and we should be treated equally." 3
  • The Rev. Klayton Ko, senior pastor of the First Assembly of God at Red Hill, HI said:

    "It is a sad day for Hawaii. We don't feel the legislators listened to the people of Hawaii. We believe the majority of Hawaii people are in support of traditional family values. ... In the upcoming election, we will take note of those who supported the bill. That will be our opportunity to speak." 3

  • Lambda Legal, a gay-positive group, said:

    "Today's vote was down to the wire, but it represents years of steady work by Hawaii's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LGBT) community and by concerned state legislators. There's no denying it's been a bumpy road, but like all arduous journeys, it makes the destination that much sweeter. After the seeming death of HB 444 last January, Lambda Legal and our colleagues at the ACLU of Hawaii announced we would file a lawsuit seeking relief for the thousands of couples who need the very real protections civil unions will provide. In fact, we were already on O`ahu this week in final preparations for litigation if the legislature failed to act by today's end of session. We're delighted that, as long as Governor Lingle does not veto the bill, our lawsuit won't be necessary."

  • The Hawaii Business Roundtable, is composed of state business executives who promote the overall economic vitality and social health of Hawaii. It urged the governor to veto the HR 444. A week later, seven large businesses went public with their support of the bill. They included the state's largest health insurer, Hawaii Medical Service Association, Time Warner Cable Inc., Marriott International Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. and Aon Corp. 9

  • Chuck Freedman, former communications director for the Hawaii Democratic Party, said that Governor Lingle "... has been tight-lipped about this and publicly saying she is talking to both sides. My own feeling is, this is a basic civil-rights issue and not a Democratic or Republican issue. I hope her sense of civil rights will kick in and she will allow it into law." 9

  • Tambry Young, a board member of Citizens for Equal Justice, has lived with her partner for 29 years. They have a 10-year-old child, and seek the medical and other rights and protections for themselves and their child. She said: "We really believe this is a civil-rights issue. It's about societal justice and equality."
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Governor Lingle meets with opposing groups:

On 2010-MAY-24, Governor Linda Lingle (R) met with about 30 individuals who were opposed to the civil unions bill. The private discussion lasted about two hours. 6

Honolulu TV station KHON-TV reported that:

"Recently the governor shared the factors she'll be considering as she weighs whether to veto, sign or let the measure become law without her signature: ‘How the economy, the fiscal situation of the government would be affected, what programs would we now have to expand to cover a lot more people for instance so what would the economic impact be?" 6

Two University of Hawaii researchers -- economics professor Sumner La Croix and Kimberly Burnett, assistant specialist with the Hawaii Economic Research Organization -- studied the economic impact of legalizing civil unions in the state. Their report: "The Impact of Civil Unions on Hawaii's Economy and Government was released on 2010-MAY-24. They reported that tourism and other businesses might benefit by about $6.9 million a year. However, the costs of civil unions would be minimal. They wrote:

"A reasonable expectation from the experience of other states enacting civil unions is that the state of Hawaii's adjustment to the passage of civil unions legislation will be smooth and cost little."

They found that no state suffered decline in tourism revenue because of legalizing civil unions or same-sex marriage. 7

Governor Lingle met with persons who favor HB 444 on MAY-25.

Finally, she met with two local rabbis in early JUNE:

  • Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky leads Chabad of Hawaii, an Orthodox Jewish group. In common with conservative Christian groups, he interprets the Torah as teaching that homosexuality "... is not something that should be condoned or legalized." He believes that Leviticus condemns homosexual behavior as sinful. He said: "The question is, whether the Torah's teachings are eternal and binding, or not." Further, he is concerned that if civil unions are offered as an alternative to marriage, that many Jewish young people will decide to become homosexual and abandon heterosexual relationships and opposite marriage. He said that If people are drawn to civil unions "... then they wouldn't recognize the blessings of marriage, of family. ... The governor is very interested in her Jewish heritage and ... the traditions and the teaching of Judaism. I tried to share with her my understanding of the Jewish view on this matter." He appears to feel that the Orthodox anti-gay belief is the only legitimate viewpoint for a Jew to take.

  • Rabbi Peter Schaktman leads the Reform Temple Emanu-El. He believes that a fundamental teaching of Judaism is that persons of all sexual orientations are and should be treated as "children of God;" they should be treated equally. He said: "Civil unions are a legal arrangement. Therefore, anyone who uses religion to oppose civil unions is purely using religion to further homophobia." Referring to Governor Lingle's statement that Judaism in Hawaii is split on the matter of civil unions, Schaktman said: "I think it was misleading for her to imply that there's split in the Jewish community. It's fair to say the majority are in favor of it."

    He believes that it is up to Rabbi Krasnjansky and other religious conservatives to oppose equal rights for sexual minorities. He said: "That's not Gov. Lingle's job, and they have no right to expect her or the state to promulgate their morality." He encouraged her "... to not do necessarily the expedient thing (but) to really search her conscience to do what is right." 8

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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. Peter J. Smith, "Hawaii House Sneaks Gay Civil Unions Bill out of the Closet and into Law with Surprise Vote," LifeSiteNews, 2010-APR-30. at:
  2. "Stone," "Hawaii passes civil unions Bill 444!," The Blog Expression, 2010-APR-30, at:
  3. Mary Adamski, "Religious leaders differ on civil-unions bill passage," Star Bulletin, 2010-MAY-25, at:
  4. "Letter to Governor Lingle," UHPA, 2010-APR-30, at:
  5. Jim Mendoza, "Governor Lingle holds roundtables on civil unions bill," Hawaii News Now, 2010-MAY-25, at:
  6. Julie Bolcer, "Hawaii Gov. meets with civil union foes," The Advocate, 2010-MAY-25, at:
  7. Mary Adamski, "Civil unions would have little economic impact, study finds." Star Bulletin, 2010-MAY-25, at:
  8. Herbert Sample, "Hawaii gov consults with rabbis on civil unions," Associated Press, 2010-JUN-12, at:
  9. Suzanne Roig, "Hawaii waits on civil unions, gay and straight," Time Magazine, 2010-JUN-20, at:

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

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