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Religious Tolerance logo

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

2013-NOV-08 to 13:
Scope of the Marriage equality bill SB1.
Comments by some of the demonstrators.
Rep. McDermott to seek judicial injunction.
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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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Scope of the marriage equality bill concerning religious freedom to belief and religious freedom to discriminate:

The bill, coupled with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does protect religious freedom in the traditional meaning of that term. It protects freedom of beliefs, assembly, proselytizing, etc. It protects clergy and religious organizations, denominations, congregations, etc. so that they can -- with impunity -- reject same-sex couples who wish to marry.

However, there is a second meaning to this term which is growing quickly in importance: the religious freedom to denigrate and discriminate. The bill leaves sole proprietors and businesses in danger of running afoul of Hawaii's human rights legislation:

  • If they provide a public accommodation -- that is if they supply products or services to the general population, -- and

  • If they decide to discriminate against the LGBT community by refusing to sell their products or services.

For example, if wedding planners, the owner of a hall suitable for marriage ceremonies or receptions, wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, companies that rent or sell wedding clothing, etc. decide to refuse to serve same-sex couples, they could have a complaint lodged against them under Hawaii's public accommodation law -- the state's human rights legislation.

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Further developments following Senate passage of the bill:

Sen. Clayton Hee (D), chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, and others have said that Governor Abercrombie (D) will sign the bill into law on the next morning, NOV-13. That would make Hawaii the 15th state -- and the 16th jurisdiction including the District of Columbia -- to legalize same-sex marriage. Illinois is expected to be the 17th jurisdiction. Its legislature has passed a similar bill which is scheduled to be signed by its governor on NOV-20.

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying:

"I want to congratulate the Hawaii State Legislature on passing legislation in support of marriage equality.

I've always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today's vote makes me even prouder. And Michelle and I extend our best wishes to all those in Hawaii whose families will now given the security and respect they deserve." 1

Tim Sakahara, writing for Hawaii News Now commented on NOV-12:

"It was a very different atmosphere at the State Capitol from last week. There wasn't any chanting or shouting from opponents. In fact only a few dozen opponents were here watching outside. Meanwhile supporters were upbeat knowing they were on the brink of history.

Cheers and applause erupted at the moment the Senate passed the Marriage Equality bill 19-4. There were plenty of hugs and then dancing. Supporters did the electric slide and then busted out in song." 2

Hector Hoyos, an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church and SSM supporter. said:

"I'm ecstatic. I'm so happy that for the first time I'll say, that' I've been here 10 years, I stand out a little bit, I know that right now, this week, today, I actually feel a part of the cloth of this state. I don't feel second class anymore. I feel like I have as many rights as anyone else does. I can hold my head up high and know we are a very active part of this community and when we need to come together we do."

Alan Spector, another SSM supporter, was standing with his husband. He said:

"It's a sense of dignity and it's also sense of legal protection in those times when we may need those rights. This is the first time in our 14 years of marriage that our federal government and our home state actually recognizes us as the married couple that we are."

Valerie Smith's was pregnant with her first child which was due that day. She and her partner Nathalie Sowers also support SSM. Valerie said that she was pleased that their son would be born into a Hawaii that has attained marriage equality. She said:

"Nothing means family more than marriage does so in a way this binds us all together."

Meanwhile opponents weren't angry but they were disappointed. Sakahara asked a number of conservative Christians who were opposed to marriage equality whether fellow opponents would eventually accept SSM:

  • Deacon Walter Yoshimitsu, a Roman Catholic, said:

    "Over time it might be but I think it will be a long healing process and I think both sides have to come together and have some sort of healing."

  • Dave Willweber, of Mauka Makai Ministries, said:

    "Accepting same sex marriage: no. Accepting homosexuals: yes. I think that's already been the case."

  • Klayton Ko, a pastor of the First Assembly of God said:

    "I'm disappointed but I'm not surprised. We've already voiced our opposition but we knew from the beginning this was a rushed session. It was already stacked against us. Once the Constitution is not respected then everything else is open for any kind of law that's passed." 2

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2013-NOV-12: Senator Bob McDermott seeks court injunction to halt same-sex marriages:

His lawsuit is largely based on the voter guide that was mailed to all voters to inform them in advance of the 1988 plebiscite. It stated:

"Meaning of a 'Yes' vote:

A 'Yes' vote would add a new provision to the constitution that would give the Legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples only. The Legislature could then pass a law that would limit marriage to the union of one man and one woman, overturning the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex couples." 3

Rep. Bob McDermott said:

"I was there in 1998 as a member of the State House….a claim few in office today can make.  The people thought they were answering the question once and for all.  However, the horrible language that was foisted upon the people by the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time left us with no choice but to accept the amendment.  This explains the mess we are in today. ... The point here is that the people thought they were voting on reserving marriage to opposite-sex couples only," 3

The plebiscite passed by a vote of about 69% to 29%, and the Legislature later did exercise this option by passing a law that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

The Governor and Attorney General recently stated that the Legislature currently has the power to repeal that law. This is presumably based on the normal expectation that whenever a Legislature passes a piece of legislation it can also repeal, replace, or amend that same law at a later date.

McDermott feels that the Hawaiian people were deceived back in 1998 because the public had the impression that a ban on same-sex marriage would be forever. He plans to return to Oahu Circuit Court and ask Judge Karl Sakamoto to ask for a temporary restraining order that would prevent same-sex couples from marrying, when the marriage equality law becomes effective on DEC-02.

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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. "Same-sex marriage bill faces final Senate vote," Hawaii News Now, 2013-NOV-12, at:
  2. Tim Sakahara, "Supporters and opponents react to Marriage Equality vote," Hawaii News Now, 2013-NOV-12, at:
  3. "Lawsuit fails to stop Hawaii legislature from passing gay marriage legislation," Hawaii Reporter, 2013-NOV-07, at:
  4. The text of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 can be read on Scribd at:

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-NOV-08
Latest update: 2013-NOV-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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