HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the nation's high court considers two landmark cases on same-sex marriage, Hawaii families are watching closely. Same-sex marriage proponents kicked off a three-day vigil in Honolulu on Monday.
"Our rights as citizens of the United States have been abridged. We should have the rights to marriage just like any other couple should have the right to marriage," said Jo-Ann Adams of the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
They're trying to rally support as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in two cases. The first centers on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's voter initiative that stopped gay marriage. The other case involves the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman.
"It brings over 1,000 rights at the federal level. That's the importance, and that's why we went for civil unions first, because the Defense of Marriage Act was in place. We didn't have federal recognition. Now we're on the threshold of federal recognition," said Adams.
The Supreme Court decisions are expected to be issued by this summer.
Meanwhile, a state senate committee advanced two resolutions to establish a task force to study the social, economic, and religious impacts of marriage equality in Hawaii. Some people testified in support of the idea, but critics also voiced their displeasure.
"There are many so-called Christian organizations, entities here that are in full support of this particular bill and further bills. It is totally contrary to the word of God, to the Bible," said an opponent named Strider.
Nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Nine other states, including Hawaii, recognize civil unions.
Opponents insist they're trying to preserve the institution of marriage.
"We think that marriage is between a man and a woman, and studies have shown that whenever there is a man and a woman in a relationship you have the possibility of children and better for family unity and upbringing," said Walter Yoshimitsu of Hawaii Catholic Conference.