Same-sex marriage opponents want lawmakers to "let the people decide"
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With a little more than two weeks to go until lawmakers convene at the State Capitol for the special session to decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage, both sides hope to sway legislators before they vote.
About 150 people gathered at the Capitol Friday afternoon in opposition to the proposed same-sex marriage legislation.
"The coalition to let the people decide on marriage says don't take our choice to preserve traditional marriage as a unique social institution out of the law unless you ask us. If we say yes, fine. If we say no, no," said Jim Hochberg, President of Hawai'i Family Advocates, who helped organize today's rally.
Advocates for same-sex marriage say the public has already been given that chance.
"The people in Hawaii did make a decision in 1998, changing the State Constitution and giving the legislature the responsibility to define marriage," said Lois Perrin, Legal Director of ACLU of Hawaii, and founding member of Hawai'i United for Marriage, in a statement to Hawai'i News Now.
"Let the people decide! Let the people decide!" chanted the crowd during their rally in the Rotunda.
Opponents say this issue is too big and has too many implications to let just lawmakers choose the outcome.
"We put them in there to do what we want. It seems like they do what they want. No, they are there for us, for the people. That is why I'm so concerned. I'm a busy man, but I'm here to let them know please, please let the people decide about marriage," said Pastor Joe Hunkin of the Lighthouse Outreach Center in Waipahu.
The bill contains two provisions that provide exemptions based on religious beliefs and use of a religious organization's facilities, but some are worried those aren't strong enough.
"The language that's in there presently such as it is, it's unclear, it's vague and it seems to protect but I don't think it does a good job," explained Bishop Carl Harris of the Emmanuel Temple The House of Praise in Wahiawa.
Others say those protections should include business owners without religious affiliations, like florists and photographers.
"Individuals who have a conscience that is against same-sex marriage should not be compelled to provide services if they do not want," said Jon Durrett, a local lawyer and concerned resident.
Opponents say redefining marriage has unintended consequences the Legislature has not considered, which is why the people should decide.
Advocates believe they have the public's support.
"Today, a growing majority of people in Hawaii support marriage equality, and when the legislature convenes in special session, we are hopeful that lawmakers will reflect the loving spirit of Hawaii's people," the statement from Hawai'i United for Marriage went on to say.
Today's event was the second opposition rally at the Capitol in less than a week. The same-sex marriage special session begins October 28 and thousands of people from both sides are expected to be there the first day.
To read the proposed draft of the same-sex marriage legislation, click here: http://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Marriage_Equity_Bill_AG_9_9_13.pdf
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