Thousands Protest against Hawaii Same-Sex Civil Union Legislation in Anticipation of Today’s Vote

Tue Feb 24, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

HONOLULU, February 24, 2009 ( - Between 6,000 and 8,000 people gathered at the state Capitol on Sunday for a demonstration against proposed legislation that would legalize same-sex civil unions in Hawaii.

The protest was organized by the Hawaii Family Forum (HFF) which represents churches from across the state, including the Hawaii Catholic Conference, in anticipation of a vote to be held today by a state Senate committee looking at the issue.

Executive Director of the HFF, Dennis Arakaki, said "We are here in the spirit of love, compassion, and grace," according to AP. "But we are also here armed with the sword of truth. In Hawaii, people still believe in traditional marriage and the sanctity of marriage, and there’s no indication that values or perspectives have changed."

In 1998, nearly 70 percent of Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment giving the State Legislature the power to reserve marriage for opposite-sex couples. The "defense of marriage" amendment resulted in a law banning homosexual "marriage" in Hawaii, but did not obviate the possibility of same-sex civil unions.

Earlier this month the Hawaii House of Representatives approved Bill 444, in a 34 to 17 vote, which, if passed by the Senate committee and not vetoed by Governor Linda Lingle, would give same-sex partners who enter into civil unions the same rights and benefits under state law as married couples. It would also recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships and same-sex "marriages" performed in other states and countries as civil unions in Hawaii.

Bishop Larry Silva of the Hawaii diocese of the Catholic Church published a letter on the diocesan website addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Robert Bunda, who is opposed to same-sex civil unions, urging him to vote against the bill.

"A decade ago, the people of Hawaii voted their clear intention that marriage is between one man and one woman.  The civil unions bill, though it does not call a civil union marriage, in effect ignores the will of the people and simply gives a different name to what is really construed as a marriage between partners of the same sex," Bishop Silva stated.

"Every human being is equal to every other human being, no matter what the person’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or citizenship.  But marriage between one man and one woman is NOT equal to same-sex marriage (or civil union, or whatever other term we choose to call it)".

The bishop concluded that, "Accepting civil unions as an indication of equality may lead others to seek the same ‘equality.’ Will polygamists be next to demand ‘equality’? Others whose values will continue to erode the social fabric of our community?"

Bunda told the Honolulu Advertiser that he would vote against the Bill, saying that same-sex civil unions and homosexual "marriage" amounted to the same thing, since the bill would provide same-sex partners with the same rights as married couples under the law.

He also cautioned that should the Bill not pass in the Senate committee, Senate leaders who favor the Bill may hijack the proceedings to bring the bill to the full Senate.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona urged legislators to respect the 1998 vote and reject civil unions. He suggested that lawmakers could put the question on a referendum again rather than pass a law without another vote by the people.

"This is nothing more than same-sex marriage under a different name," Aiona said. "You would be circumventing the will of the people."

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