By Leland Kim
HONOLULU (KHNL) - The debate over same-sex marriage in Hawaii heats up once again, with a new senate bill re-visiting the issue. If passed, SB-1062 would give gay couples the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples. It's a controversial topic and each side is poised for a major battle.
The Snyder-Rivers family lives in Wahiawa. For the most part, they're typical except two moms lead this household. Under a new senate proposal, families like this would get the same rights and benefits as straight married families.
"I think it's long overdue and I think it's a wonderful thing it's happening now," said Akaloka Rivers, a lesbian parent of four children.
"I think it's a necessity and as an American, I think I have that right," said Tori Snyder, her partner.
But some disagree, saying the bill is harmful to Hawaii families, while making a mockery of our democratic process.
"Legalizing civil unions means legalizing homosexual marriage with a different name," said State Sen. Mike Gabbard, R-Waikele, Makakilo, Kapolei, and Kalaeloa. "It is outrageous. It is an outrageous attempt to undermine the will of the people."
Senator Gabbard led a successful charge in the 1990s to protect the traditional definition of marriage. He said it's a waste of time and energy to revisit this topic almost a decade later.
"It's an insult to the people of this state to bring this issue up again after we discussed and debated and fought on this issue for eight years," he said.
But Rivers and Snyder said their and their children's rights aren't protected under current laws, which don't recognize parental rights of gay partners.
"If it were my biological child, I could go in but Tori wouldn't be able to do anything," said Rivers.
Senator Gabbard said it's important for children to grow up with a mother and a father.
"Moms and dads: you got two different types of energy there," he said. And by design, that's what kids need. They need a mom and a dad."
Rivers counters, times have changed.
"You're lucky if they have one parent that's able to be there and take care of them," she said. "Here we have two loving parents."
Two definitions of family; two very different points of view.