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Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii

Attempt to shut down the special session.
President Obama gives support to SB1.
Will same-sex marriage lead to "self-marriage?"
House Judiciary & Finance committee testimony.
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This is a continuation from a previous essay

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2013-OCT-30: State Represenative Bob McDermott tries to shut down the special session via a lawsuit:

After the full Senate passed SB1, State Rep. Bob McDermott filed a lawsuit in state court, seeking to terminate the special session. He also planned to file a motion on OCT-31 to adjourn the special session. He claims that since Hawaii voters passed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage in 1998 -- some fifteen years ago -- that the legislature does not have the authority to pass a bill legalizing SSM. He said:

"Until there is clarity on this, I would think the legislature should not act because once we cross the abyss, there's no going back." 1

Webmaster's note:

From the news accounts, Rep. McDermott appears to claim that:

  • In 1998, when the voters passed a plebiscite that allows the Legislature to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, that it did not also give the Legislature the authority to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

  • In 2013, if the Legislature exercises its right to redefine marriage, it would have only one chance to do so. It could never pass another bill to redefine marriage in the future.

Andrea Freeman, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law explained that:

"The amendment clarified that the legislature could choose to reserve marriage only for opposite sex couples. But it definitely does not state that it is ... the only thing it can do." 2

Rep McDermott responded:

"What did the people understand they were voting on? Between a man and a woman only, because that's what they were told by the Office of Elections [in 1998]."

Senator Clayton Hee (D), Chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, said:

"I think the Attorney General was very clear when he issued an opinion that said without reservation and emphatically that the legislature has the power to engage in what we're doing now. ... This is [a] very serious [question] of equality and justice and he has turned it into some kind of circus. And it's unfortunate that he [McDermott] evidently has chosen to make himself the ringleader of the circus." 1

University of Hawaii Law School Professor Carole Petersen said:

"If I were a judge, I would be very reluctant to stop a legislative process. I would prefer to wait and see if the bill is enacted." 1

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2013-NOV-01: President Obama advocates in favor of marriage equality:


The White House released a statment saying that President Obama would:

"... welcome a decision by the state Legislature to treat all Hawaii couples equally."

Shin Inouye, a White House representative, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

"As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect." 3

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2013-OCT-31: Jim Hochberg of Hawaii Family Advocates predicts same-sex marriage will lead to people marrying themselves:


Massachusetts has been marrying same-sex couples since 2004, and The Netherlands started to marry same-sex couples before that. There is no sign that polygamy, marrying animals, or marrying one-self is on the horizon.

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2013-OCT-31: Comments by the participants in the joint session of the House Judiciary and Finance committees:

Some very sincere comments were made by people with very different views about the nature of marriage, the separation/integraton of church and state, and the future of Hawaii:

  • In favor of SB1:
    • Nick Lacarra: "I hope that they take into consideration both sides, but that they vote with their heart and do the right thing and be on the right side of history. It's time and I just hope that they'll listen with an open heart."

    • Jocelyn Deguia: "We're very good people. We're citizens and we contribute to the country and the state. My partner is a social worker and I'm a state government worker -- we're good people, so we should be allowed to have this just as others do." 5

  • Opposed to SB1:
    • Charis Logan: "I feel that this bill is going to open this up for marriage to be defined as something that I do not believe that it is and so I'm here for my future children and also for the future of Hawai'i."

    • Strider Didymus: "This is about the preservation of family, morality of our community, and the protection of religious beliefs -- what about the First Amendment rights of us?

    • Rachel Rivers: "A situation of this great magnitude shouldn't be left up to just a handful of people especially because it's not going to just affect the people of today its going to affect our children, future generations from this point on and once this does go through -- if it does go through -- it can never be reversed." 5

Concerning Didymus' comment: The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religious thought and speech, freedom of religious assembly, etc. However it does not guarantee that the state's laws on marriage will match the beliefs of each individual and each faith group. It can be argued that if marriage equality is not attained, that the state is infringing on the religious freedom of those faith groups that support same-sex marriage, as well as the members of such groups who agree with their teachings.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Manolo Morales, "Legislator tries to derail special session with lawsuit," KHON-TV, 2013-OCT-30, at:
  2. Ben Gutierrez, "Lawmaker files suit regarding amendment on same-sex marriage." Hawaii News Now, 2013-OCT-31, at:
  3. Daniel Reynolds, "Obama Urges Hawaii to Pass Marriage Equality , The Advocate, 2013-NOV-01, at:
  4. Sunivie Brydum, "WATCH: Hawaii House Committee, Opponents Debate Marriage Equality," The Advocate, 2013-OCT-31, at:
  5. Mileka Lincoln, "Thousands testify at House hearing on same-sex marriage," Hawaii News Now, 2013-OCT-31, at:

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Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-OCT-30
Latest update: 2013-NOV-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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