EXCLUSIVE: Aiona says he'd perform same-sex marriage if asked

EXCLUSIVE: Aiona says he'd perform same-sex marriage if asked

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona, a same-sex marriage opponent and former judge who's performed weddings for 24 years, told Hawaii News Now he would reluctantly marry a same-sex couple as required by law.

Aiona is a Catholic who's been clear that he opposes gay marriage, but it's not a major part of his campaign for governor.

At a forum Aug. 26, Aiona said: "It's not a priority with me as a candidate. In other words, if I was asked whether or not I'm making it a priority in regards to being governor, and I'm going to come in and I'm going to propose legislation that will overturn that law that was just passed, the answer is no."

In the last several years, Aiona said he's performed as many as eight weddings a month to bring in extra income, something he started doing in 1990, when he became a family court judge.

Hawaii News Now found video on YouTube of Aiona presiding over weddings and photos of ceremonies on a website called "Weddings by Duke."

One photo showed him blowing a conch shell at one wedding.

Asked what he would do if a gay or lesbian couple wanted him to marry them, Aiona said, "You know, it's the law, right, I'm required by law to marry these couples, but obviously you know what my position is on it. But the law is the law."

"I'll be in a precarious position, right. I'll be in a precarious position. But obviously, I'm sworn to uphold the law," Aiona added.

The new same-sex marriage law said wedding providers such as Aiona along with florists, videographers and caterers must provide wedding services to same-sex couples, as part of the state's public accommodation law.

Only members of the clergy or churches can turn away same-sex couples for religious reasons.

Aiona is not a minister, but has a license to conduct weddings that he received when he was a judge and he said he can continue officiating at weddings until he quits or resigns from the wedding business.

Hawaii News Now asked Aiona if he believes the law should be changed to allow people like him opposed to gay marriage to decline to work on a same-sex marriage event.

"They went through that, right, through the legislative process and it came out the way it came out, so I'm not arguing with that. You know, we move on," Aiona said.

He said he stopped doing weddings for pay in the spring when he entered the governor's race and has since only performed ceremonies for friends and family.

Aiona said he has not performed any same-sex weddings because no one has asked him to do so.

But if a gay couple did ask, he said he'd reluctantly go through with the ceremonies, just as he has with other weddings of straight couples.

"I can tell you there were weddings that I didn't want to do, not because of any sexual orientation or anything, but it's just because I didn't believe that they were ready or it just didn't feel right," Aiona said. "But I did it. I did it. Because again, in the final evaluation, I'm doing a public service. Who am I to judge and say 'You guys are not ready.'"

Aiona's financial disclosure form said he earned between $10,000 and $25,000 from work presiding over weddings and in his law practice last year.

During that same time, he has also been a substitute teacher at public schools and a professor at Chaminade University, and reported similar ranges ($10,000 - $25,000) for the income from each of those two jobs.

Mufi Hannemann, an independent candidate for governor, is a Mormon who is opposed to same-sex marriage. Hannemann has said he too would uphold the current law and would not try to overturn it.

State Sen. David Ige, the Democratic nominee for governor is a Buddhist who voted for Hawaii's so-called marriage equality law that passed a special session of the Legislature and was quickly signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie last fall.

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