A bill passed by the Hawaii House this month could legalize same-sex civil unions if the state Senate approves and the governor does not veto the legislation.
A divided Senate committee is to vote on the measure Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, has declined to comment on the proposal. It is not clear whether she would veto the bill.
Proponents argued that the proposal would promote equality and make it easier for homosexual couples to adopt children, share health benefits and gain hospital visitation rights.
Religious groups have taken out newspaper ads, set up web sites, and held rallies to encourage legislators and citizens to oppose the measure. They argue the proposal would further erode family ties and values.
In response to the bill, Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu wrote a letter to Senator Robert Bunda, in which he said, “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.”
“A push for ‘equality’ seems to be the driving force behind this civil unions bill. But the word equality is misused. In the realm of mathematics a ‘3’ certainly has the same qualitative status as a ‘9’. Both are equal in the fact that both are real numbers. But 3 = 9 is simply not true,” Bishop Silva reasoned.
“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).”
"In Hawaii, people still believe in traditional marriage and the sanctity of marriage," Dennis Arakaki, of the Hawaii Catholic Conference, told the Associated Press. "There's no indication that values or perspectives have changed."
The measure passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 12-0 vote and the full House approved it 33-17, one vote short of a veto-proof two-thirds majority.
In 1998 nearly 70 percent of Hawaii voters approved a “defense of marriage” constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage.”
The amendment overturned a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that declared to be discriminatory the refusal of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.