Honolulu Advertiser Commentary
Monday, February 23, 2009
It’s same-sex marriage with another name
The controversial and divisive issue of “same-sex marriage” is again before our community because legislators in the House of Representatives fast-tracked and approved legislation establishing “civil unions” for same sex-couples in Hawaii. They wrongly propose to legalize same-sex marriage under the more benign-sounding banner of civil unions.
State elected legislators are ignoring the clear mandate by 70 percent of Hawai’i voters in 1998 that defines marriage should be between only a man and a woman.
Supporters of civil unions argue that the legislation is not about redefining the marriage statute. However, this bill would create a parallel chapter in our law for civil unions, which constitutes de facto same-sex marriages.
The bill’s language is clear on this point under the heading, “Same benefits, protections, and responsibilities as marriage,” stating that same-sex partners in a civil union “shall have all the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities under law … as are granted to spouses in a marriage.” It provides for every reference in Hawai’i law to “marriage” shall apply equally to “civil unions.” The procedures for obtaining a license and for solemnizing same-sex civil unions would be identical to those for traditional marriage. Finally, it would officially recognize civil unions and same-sex marriages from other states and countries.
Again, 70 percent of our voters spoke clearly and definitively on the issue of same-sex marriages. By continuing to move HB 444 through the legislative process, legislators are reintroducing a very divisive bill that conceals its intent from Hawai’i’s majority voters.
This action diverts the attention of our community at a time when the very economic survival of families is at stake. We should attend to “first things first’ and end the deliberation on HB 444 in favor of the majority voice of the people.
– Most Rev. Clarence Larry Silva
Bishop of Honolulu, The Roman Catholic Church in Hawai’i
– THE Very Rev. Mac R. Alexander
STD Vicar General, The Roman Catholic Church in Hawai’i
– Pastor Wayne Cordeiro
New Hope Christian Fellowship Oahu
– Pastors Art & Kuna Sepulveda
Word of Life
– Mitch D’Olier
President & CEO Kaneohe Ranch LLC
– Dr. Francis Oda
Chairman Group 70 International Inc.
UPDATE to my stance on Civil Unions:
Following the rally at the Capitol Sunday (Feb. 22), I sent the a letter as an OpEd to the local papers. In the Honolulu Advertiser, I found an opinion piece [reprinted above in italics] submitted by several Christian leaders opposing HB 444 on the grounds that it will create a “a parallel chapter in our law for civil unions, which constitutes de facto same-sex marriages.” Interestingly, they rely on a vote over a decade old (which I personally did not have a voice in, being below voting age, not to mention the thousands of others my age or younger that this bill will affect) to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
It is indeed about equity under the law, a point that I agree with said Christian leaders. There should be no special treatment for one group of citizens at the expense of another (overturned “equal but separate” concept being of key importance). Our nation learned the hard lessons of this in the abolitionist, women’s suffrage, and civil rights movements. To illuminate my point, I myself am a white, Christian, privileged male; Please do not give me any more dignity or respect than you, our lawmakers, give to any other demographic background in your jurisdiction! Any less is discrimination. In its essence, the commentary seemed to promote the idea that Christian morals (and consequentially Christians themselves) are to be given greater legal recognition and broader societal benefits than other members of our society. This stands as a grave violation of our civic society and undermines the impartiality of our system of representative government.
Secondly, I am quite dismayed that the majority opposition is represented by the Christian faith. I did note, however perplexed, that a business owner also co-signed. This fact is personally disturbing to me as a Christian in particular. Too often, the Church sees their only mode of affecting the world to be through the authority of the state. I witnessed this during the House Judiciary hearing on Feb. 5th. No less than subtle threats made by a city council person and other concerned Christians held the room aghast by implying that lawmakers were going against God’s will and threatening the strands of our society by allowing civil unions (and this was before the not-so-subtle comparisons of homosexuality to rape, pedophilia, and bestiality). Allow me call attention to another deadly sin, greed, that currently threatens our very livelihood with utter collapse. Where were the rallies and worship services upon the Wall Street catastrophe?
So where does that leave marriage? If I feel so strongly in favor of a position that many leaders within my own community oppose, how may I justify myself? When I got married in 2007, I forbade the minister to utter the words “by the power vested in me by the state of Hawaii.” To me this represented a fallacy; marriage is not given its power by state, but receives its blessing from God. Religious communities will always be free to define marriage according to their specific traditions. You will notice, however, that proponents of civil union like myself are approaching the state, not the church. The state has a legal obligation to provide equitable and just treatment for all within its authority.
Any couple that accepts financial and civil reward as a result of their union does so at the expense of (and therefore remain in debt to) the public. In reality, all “marriages” that receive such benefits from the public are, in their most basic form, a civil union. I understand the sacrament of marriage, from a spiritual context, to be separate and distinct from such economic (but not social) demands. To be very blunt, and to perhaps set myself at odds with the public, I do not personally recognize the authority of the state in such an intimate mystery as marriage. But in the civil square, our responsibility is clear. Civil unions restore impartiality and provide equal rights under the law, a point my opponents in this matter do not contend.