Same-sex marriage critics working to rally opposition
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With three weeks to go until the special session on same-sex marriage, critics are trying to rally the opposition.
An anonymous flyer has been landing in mailboxes across Moanalua, Salt Lake and Aliamanu in recent days. It names State Representative Linda Ichiyama (House District 32), yet her office has no idea where it came from or who is distributing it.
The mailer reads "Hawai'i's state legislature may soon vote to legalize same-sex marriage without your input, Rep. Linda Ichiyama may vote yes." It goes on to urge recipients to contact Rep. Ichiyama and ask her to vote no to same-sex marriage.
In a statement, Ichiyama describes the flyer as containing "half-truths and misinformation about the proposed same-sex marriage bill. For example, the flyer states that churches can be "forced" to conduct same-sex marriages "even if it violates their beliefs." The draft same-sex marriage bill specifically protects religious freedom and ensures that churches may refuse to perform same-sex marriages for any reason."
"I am disappointed that such a flyer was sent, without knowing who it was from. Misleading messages like this have no place in a discussion about same-sex marriage and I hope that in the coming weeks we can have a civil, honest and accurate dialogue about such an important issue," Ichiyama stated.
Nowhere does it indicate who the mailer is from, but campaign spending commission officials say that's not illegal because only advertisements that call for the support or defeat of specific ballot issues or candidates require disclosure.
"There's really no message calling for Rep. Ichiyama's defeat or election and it doesn't concern itself with a ballot issue. Same-sex marriage issue is not a ballot issue," explained Gary Kam, the Campaign Spending Commission's General Counsel.
Kam says the purpose of campaign disclosure laws are to educate voters.
"Basically disclosures are one of the only things we have to keep the public informed on where the money is coming from when it comes to candidates and issues and the message that is being given by the ads," Kam explained.
Experts say political speech is one of the most protected, and the only recourse is to pursue a defamation suit, which is not easy.
"The difficulty is having to show that one it's a statement of fact, not opinion, and two that the person making the statement knows that it's untrue at the time they make it," explained Jeff Portnoy, a First Amendment attorney.
"There's no regulation at all permitted for political speech. The only so-called regulation would be the law of defamation. The Constitution and the United States Supreme Court have made it clear that it's very difficult, if not impossible to regulate political speech," Portnoy said.
The broad scope of political speech is exemplified in a new radio ad that began airing Monday.
"The lie of so-called marriage equality is merely a stepping stone to have government forcibly legitimize and normalize all sorts of deviant behavior," the advertisement claims.
It was paid for by the Hawai'i Republican Assembly, which is not affiliated with the Hawai'i Republican Party.
"All these groups out there, these radical groups that want to push the homosexual agenda – once the state quote unquote legalizes same sex marriage that opens the door for them for all other types of lawsuits to push this agenda into about every other facet of life, whether it's the schools, whether it's business, whether it's your religion or place of worship it's going to happen," said Tito Montes, the President of the Hawai'i Republican Assembly.
Officials with the Governor Neil Abercrombie's office say that's inaccurate.
"We think it's unfortunate that they need to resort to fear-mongering in order to try to drum up some opposition. The parade of horribles that they trotted out, we think are very misleading because none of those things would actually ever happen," said Blake Oshiro, the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Governor's Office.
Montes says his email inbox is flooded with positive support from people who have heard the radio spot. "We're getting our message out and we're getting a great response," he said. "It's all about honest and true messaging and I would urge people to go to HawaiianRepublicanAssembly.com and you will see many factual informational things that have happened in our country as a result of other states passing same-sex marriage," Montes said.
Oshiro says anyone who has questions about the intent or scope of the bill should read the draft the Governor has proposed.
"This bill is very limited in terms of what it's trying to achieve, which is marriage equity and so to try and tack on all of these other things I think is a very unfortunate mischaracterization," Oshiro said. "Debate and discussion is very crucial to our democratic system and especially when it comes to a controversial issue like this, it's that opportunity for people to have a back and forth but at the same time what we don't want to see is misleading statements and inaccuracies and that's the unfortunate situation that we have here."
As for Representative Ichiyama, she reportedly intends to vote yes on same-sex marriage, but in the statement she provided Hawaii News Now she says: "I welcome the thoughtful input and comments I have received so far and look forward to continuing the discussion with community members and colleagues."
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