Hawaii Legislative Special Session On Same-Sex Marriage Starts Today

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Well, this is it. At 10am this morning, the Hawaii State Legislature went into Special Session to deal with, among other things, the issue of same-sex marriage. Ironically, after all the decades of controversy and missed opportunities, the issue today seems not to be if Governor Neil Abercrombie’s proposed legislation will pass, but by how much.

“This passage is inevitable,” House Speaker Joe Souki, D-Wailuku, said in the Oct. 27 Maui News (subscription required). “It’s going to happen.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this paper put forth that very notion more than three years ago.

“The suppression of civil rights is always a temporary condition,” then-MauiTime editor Jacob Shafer wrote in July 2010 when then-Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill. “[T]he climb may be precipitous, the battle protracted, but eventually freedom will out.”

Bill SB1 is simple. “[It] Recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex,” the bill states. “[It] Extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive.” If passed and signed by Abercrombie, it would go into effect on Nov. 18 of this year.

When you look at this bill as the final guarantee of a civil right that should have been extended to same-sex couples a long time ago–as many in Hawaii, including this newspaper, believe–then this is nothing short of wonderful news. While this Honolulu Civil Beat poll on the issue that was published a week ago shows an even 44-44 split on the issue, the same question posed in April 2012 showed a 51-37 split against legalizing same-sex marriage.

The momentum of opinion in Hawaii on same-sex marriage may fall with the legalization camp, but that doesn’t mean the opposition is rolling over, as the photo above shows. And the Kihei Baptist Church is far from a rogue organization–a half-page advertisement in the Oct. 25 Maui News from the Maui County Baptist Association declared war on Abercrombie’s proposed legislation.

“In 1998, the people of Hawaii voted to direct our leaders to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples,” the ad stated. “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

Two pages over in the same newspaper edition, another half-page advertisement–this time from the Wailuku nonprofit Compassion in Action Maui–asked (in all capitals) “Why the rush in unraveling traditional marriage?”

“This session is not really about gay rights because they already have provisions to give them benefits,” the ad stated. “This session is to change the definition of marriage… We ask our legislators to keep and protect this sacred institution of marriage which has proven successful from the beginning of time.”

The ad also called on people to “Come Out and Show Your Support for Traditional Marriage” at 2pm on Sunday, Oct. 27 at the corner of Ka’ahumanu and Kane Streets in Kahului. MauiTime‘s Jen Russo drove by the demonstration, and while she said she saw a good number of people waving signs, she heard no one driving by honking in support.

A few weeks ago, MauiTime ran a story on the annual “Maui Pride” festival, with a preview of the upcoming Special Session. The cover of that issue (Oct. 3) featured two men in black suits with wedding rings on their fingers, standing on a beach. Both are visible happy, and one is kissing the other on the cheek. It’s a sweet, tender photo of two men who clearly love each other.

“I think that the photo on the cover of Volume 17, Issue 16 is very disgusting,” said a woman who refused to identify herself but felt the need to call me after the issue came out. “It’s very disgusting,” she repeated.

Fifty years ago, segregationist politicians, editorial writers and everyday folks in places like Atlanta and Birmingham criticized federal civil rights legislation as an attack on the “Southern way of life.” Back then, the “traditional” way of life in the South meant using the force of law to keep blacks and whites from using the same facilities throughout society. It was cruel and bloody and completely wrong.

We don’t have the bombings and blood in the streets that harmed the Civil Rights Movement back then, but there’s no difference between passing local laws that keep African-Americans from voting and other local laws that prohibit same-sex couples from seeking the same marriage that’s afforded to heterosexual couples. And putting the whole thing up for a popular vote as a ballot initiative–as the opposition is now proposing–is nonsense.

Hey, while we’re at it, lets put the right of multi-racial couples to marry on the ballot, too!

Such is proposal is outlandish, and correctly so. Rights are rights because they transcend popular whims and political campaigns. Government can’t infringe on them–only guarantee them.

Simply put, the marriage of two men or two women does not in any way infringe on the rights of heterosexual couples who either wish to get married or are already married. It’s about time the State of Hawaii recognizes this fact and brings this discriminatory abomination to an end.

Click here for more information on the Special Session and the proposed legislation.

Photo of Kihei Baptist Church sign on morning of Oct. 28: MauiTime