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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 25 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 43
Sweet November? Hawaii could begin same-sex marriages next month
Section One
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Sweet November? Hawaii could begin same-sex marriages next month

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Gay and Lesbian couples could begin marrying in Hawaii on November 18 if a special session of the state's legislature passes a new marriage law favored by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The special session is scheduled to begin October 28.

A draft of the bill released on October 22 treats marriage as an equal rights issue, and changes sections of state law relating to marriage, marriage benefits, and divorce. The bill also provides for same-day licensing and marriage ceremonies, so couples could be issued licenses and be married immediately afterward when the law takes effect on November 18.

Abercrombie has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality, and after U.S. Supreme Court decisions striking DOMA and California's Prop 8 in June, he suggested calling a legislative special session to pass a new marriage law.

On August 19, a group of Hawaiian religious leaders also weighed in with a petition calling on the state to enact a same-sex marriage law.

When state House and Senate leaders informed Abercrombie that they could not find the legally required two-thirds majority to call themselves into session, the governor acted on his own authority and convened the legislature.

NO AMENDMENT NEEDED
State Attorney General David Louie subsequently issued a legal opinion rejecting arguments by anti-equality forces that the state's constitution would need to be amended to pass a same-sex marriage bill. Louie said Hawaii's legislature unquestionably has the authority to pass a new marriage law.

The bill is considered likely to pass. Speaker of the House Joseph Souki said on August 22 that a majority of House members support same-sex marriage, and he added that a new marriage bill would likely have majority support in the state Senate as well.

On August 29, the State Central Committee of Hawaii's Democratic Party unanimously approved a resolution calling for immediate passage of a same-sex marriage bill. Democrats control the state Senate by a 24-to-1 margin, and the House by 44 to 7.

CHURCH OPPOSITION
Because of the activities of 19th-century missionaries, the largest religious denominations in Hawaii are Roman Catholics and Mormons, however, and both churches oppose same-sex marriages.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Honolulu has already written to legislators, asking them to oppose changes in the marriage law, and he has also ordered Catholics to pray 'for a change of heart and the formation of an informed conscience' among the state's lawmakers.

Bishop Larry Silva added that prohibiting same-sex marriage is a 'just' form of discrimination, and he warned that legalization of polygamy and incest would follow marriage equality.

The anti-Gay Hawaii Family Advocates have teamed up with the Hawaii Catholic Conference to stage a rally at the state capitol on the opening day of the special legislative session to urge lawmakers to reject the bill.

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