MARRIAGE DIGEST: Hawaii civil unions bill dies in committee; R.I. A.G. says state should recognize out-of-state 'gay marriages'

by Michael Foust, posted Friday, March 02, 2007 (11 years ago)

HONOLULU (BP)--A bill that would have legalized same-sex civil unions in Hawaii likely died Feb. 27 when a key House committee went home without voting on it.

Democratic state Rep. Tommy Waters, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced after five hours of testimony he was deferring the bill and that there would be no vote.

“We didn't have the votes to pass it,” Waters told the Honolulu Advertiser. “But it was important for us to hear both sides of the issue.”

The news was a major victory for Hawaii social conservatives. Civil unions -- legal in Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey -- grant homosexual couples all of the states' legal benefits of marriage.

In a statement after the vote, Kelly Rosati, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, applauded Waters for his action but said the victory “is just for this session” and cautioned that the bill will be brought up in a future session. She calls civil unions “same-sex marriage with a different title” and argues they are a stepping stone to full-blown “gay marriage.”

Catholic Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu agrees, and told the committee, according to the newspaper, “The movement to legally recognize civil union is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to legalize same-sex marriage.”

Jo-Ann Adams, the chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered caucus, essentially made Silva's point when she told representatives, “We want marriage. But if you can't give us the word, give us the rights.”

In the 1990s, Hawaii became the first state to be embroiled in a significant battle over “gay marriage.” With the state Supreme Court seemingly on the verge of redefining marriage, Hawaii voters in 1998 passed a constitutional amendment giving legislators the ability to prohibit “gay marriage.” Legislators subsequently did just that.

“I would just submit that the people have spoken on this issue,” Republican Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona told the committee, according to the newspaper.

But legislators in at least three other states -- Oregon, Rhode Island and New Hampshire -- still are considering civil union laws. Melissa Chernaik, spokeswoman for the homosexual group Basic Rights Oregon, told The Register-Guard she believes the “chances are good” the civil unions bill will pass.

WYOMING MARRIAGE BILL DIES -- A bill in Wyoming that would have prohibited the recognition of out-of-state “gay marriages” died in committee in late February.

Often called a defense of marriage act, the bill failed to make it out of the state House Rules Committee when Republican House Speaker Roy Cohee, the chairman, cast a tie-breaking vote against it, the Associated Press reported. More than 40 states have a similar law.

“Is it a responsible thing of government to say that, OK, as a government, we'll provide certain benefits, and entitlements and rights to the people of this country and of this state, unless you are this or that?” Cohee asked, according to AP. “Is that our responsibility to do that? I don't think it is.”

But Becky Vandeberghe of the Wyoming Family Coalition disagreed.

“Traditional marriage between a man and a woman is the social foundation upon which Western civilization is based,” she told the committee, AP reported. “But so-called 'same-sex marriage' is really a wedge designed to overturn traditional sexual morality and to win official affirmation, celebration, subsidization and solemnization of sexual behavior viewed as both morally wrong and harmful to society by the majority of the American public. For the well-being of children and society, we must not allow the creation of government-proposed counterfeit marriage by any name.”

Republican state Rep. Rodney “Pete” Anderson asked: “Are we going to let other states tell us what our statutes say or not?”

Massachusetts is the only state that grants marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

'GAY MARRIAGE' IN RHODE ISLAND? -- “Gay marriage” isn't legal in Rhode Island, but state Attorney General Patrick Lynch, a Democrat, believes the state should honor those “marriages” from the border state of Massachusetts.

Lynch issued a legal opinion Feb. 21, stating Rhode Island should “recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in Massachusetts as marriages in Rhode Island,” AP reported.

The opinion, non-binding, was issued following a request by the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, which oversees the state's public colleges. Steve Maurano, a spokesman for the board, said it will follow Lynch's recommendation, AP said.

But elsewhere statewide, the opinion may not have much of an impact. Companies can simply ignore it. Also, some larger companies already provide domestic partner benefits.

Critics assert Lynch was influenced by the fact that his older sister, Margaret, “married” another women in Attleboro, Mass., Feb. 15. Lynch attended the ceremony, but denies it impacted his opinion.

“No disrespect to my sister, who I love very much, but it has zero impact on it,” he told The Providence Journal.


For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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