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Same-sex An island divided

Kauai representatives split on same-sex marriage bill

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Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2013 2:00 am

LIHUE — As Hawaii’s 76 lawmakers get ready to revise the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, both sides, including Kauai’s residents and lawmakers, are split on the issue.

Some see the proposed bill as move that ensures equality.

Others see it as something that runs counter to religious and traditional marriage principals.

But nearly everyone has an opinion on it.

“I’m gay,” said Jeff Demma, executive director of Malama Pono Health Services, a nonprofit committed to stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, who supports same-sex marriage.

As a person who has a family and the responsibility of raising a child, Demma said he needs the same protections afforded to opposite-sex couples.

Not long ago, Japanese-Americans in Hawaii needed some protections from restrictions in government, he said. This discrimination may be gone, but the law still treats homosexuals as second-class citizens. He said there this is an opportunity for everyone to speak against people’s rights being taken away. There are a number of benefits married couples have — federal tax breaks, insurance discounts, legal benefits and others — that don’t come from domestic partnership, he said.

While the Legislature will convene Monday to determine if homosexuals can wed in Hawaii, Aloha State citizens have voted twice — in 1994 and in 1998 — to prevent gay couples from legally marrying.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 against the federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, five states have legalized same-sex marriage. In September, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced he would call the state Legislature for a special session to consider a same-sex marriage bill here.

Beginning Monday, 51 representatives and 25 senators will convene at the state Capitol in Honolulu to work on a bill that could potentially level the field for homosexuals and heterosexuals in Hawaii, which in 1994 became the second state ever — among 35 states currently — to pass a ban on same-sex marriage.

So far, Kauai’s delegation at the Legislature is split on the issue.

“Enough of this discrimination thing,” said state Rep. Dee Morikawa, who represents Kauai residents from Koloa to Kekaha, and also Niihau.

Morikawa said she’ll support the bill unless there is something legally bad about it. When civil unions were approved in 2011, she also voted for it.

“Let’s get on with the times, people change, circumstances change,” she said.

Morikawa said she knows pressure will come down on her for supporting the bill, but she’ll do what is right for the future.

“I really do feel equality should be for all,” she said.

The majority of religious congregations on Kauai are for the bill, Morikawa said, but a few large ones are pushing against it, and even among their members there are divided opinions.

Sen. Ron Kouchi, D-Kauai-Niihau, said he missed the final vote in 2011 that approved civil unions in Hawaii, because he was in Washington, D.C. But when the bill was still in committee he voted against it, he said.

In 2012,  he supported amendments to clear up the Civil Union Bill, he said.

“But if you ask me on the same-sex marriage bill, at this point I’ll be voting ‘no’ on the bill,” Kouchi added. His decision, he said, is based on the church he belongs to.

Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, who represents voters from Wailua, Lihue and parts of Koloa, also said his vote will be no. But it has nothing to do with his religious views, it’s his constituents who don’t want it, he said.

Earlier this year, Tokioka’s staff surveyed voters in his district, through email and regular mail, and the responses they got were overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage, he said. Additionally, since Abercrombie announced the special session, Tokioka said his office received several calls and emails against the proposal.

He said he sees no urgency in calling the House and the Senate for a special session.

Tokioka said Abercrombie’s reasoning is that he feels a same-sex marriage bill should be passed before the end of the year, so it can benefit Hawaii residents next fiscal year.

“Does it rise to the occasion of just coming in for that one session, that one item? I don’t think so,” Tokioka said.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional, the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department ruled same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions recognizing their marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.

Last week, New Jersey became the 14th state in the United States to pass a same-sex marriage law, joining five other states in 2013.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs announced gay married couples will be eligible for benefits, and the Pentagon announced married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same health care, housing and separation benefits as married opposite-sex couples.

“Of the 13 states that have same-sex marriage … those couples can qualify for federal tax exemptions,” Tokioka said.

Since Abercrombie’s announcement, some religious groups have spoken against same-sex marriage.

“God sees homosexuality as an abomination, like a stench to his nostril,” said retired pastor Roy Sasaki, who helped organize some of the many recent roadside protests in Kauai against same-sex marriage.

Sasaki said Christians love gays and lesbians, but don’t condone their “activities,” which are sins, as are fornication and adultery by heterosexuals.

“Sin is sin,” he said.

Sasaki said he wants those who “claim to be gay and lesbian” to come to know Jesus. He added he knows people “who have been gay” and became heterosexuals after accepting God.

Besides, he said, the people of Hawaii already voted against same-sex marriage 15 years ago. And even so, God is the “real governor” of Hawaii, he said.

Each year the Legislature convenes for 60 legislative days, starting on the third Wednesday of January. Special Legislature sessions can be called during the remainder of the year, either by the governor or by written request of two thirds of members of the House and the Senate.

Rep. Derek Kawakami, representing Haena to Kapaa, said his support for marriage equality — and equality for all — is based on the foundation of how he was raised.

“I was brought up in a household that was very inclusive of many different belief systems and lifestyles,” he said in a statement. “I was raised to accept and embrace people for who they are, whether it be religious beliefs, ethnicity, how they talk, what they look like, or in this case, different lifestyles.”

Being a Catholic has put him in a unique situation, Kawakami said, but religion has always been a rather private issue for him.

“I have always felt that how we worship as a family was best reserved within the church and confines of our house, and that the way we can perpetuate our religious beliefs could best be demonstrated in how we treat each other, especially to those who we disagree with,” he said.

Kawakami, however, had one concern with the bill, which he said he feels can be strengthened. Churches should have their religious freedoms preserved, and should not be forced to marry couples who do not fall within their religious beliefs, he said.

“This I can agree with and feel that it is a reasonable request,” said Kawakami, adding there are other churches that may be open to performing same-sex marriages, and they should be able to exercise this if they choose to.

He said many members of the community have voiced concerns. Lawmakers are often called upon to make decisions that will hurt some, and to those he apologizes, he said.

“This will be unpopular for some but in my heart, I feel that this is the right thing to do,” Kawakami said.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

© 2016 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • caseysk posted at 10:07 am on Fri, Nov 1, 2013.

    caseysk Posts: 2

    First of all, let me begin by saying any argument using religion as their foundation has no merit in a legal debate. It's amazing how many of you will bring the bible into a legislative discussion. Do we need to go back to 9th grade social studies? Do we not know how our own government works?

    Addressing Goldie Cross, in the matter of civil rights, progress has never been made by relying on the popular vote. If we had, black folk would still be sitting in the back of the bus and drinking from separate water fountains, and women wouldn't be able to vote. It is the duty of our government to progress society, NOT to uphold the popular vote of the people. Your vote will be called upon when it is needed, and cast aside when it isn't. A majority group CANNOT vote upon the rights of a minority group.

    You say that Morikawa and Kawakami vote based on their personal feelings; that's EXACTLY what they're supposed to do. Tokioka's stance is respectable, if he wants to be the voice of his people I can't say that's completely a bad thing; it is, however, not how to vote on civil matters. Kouchi is completely out of line, ignoring the separation of church and state.

  • PAS304 posted at 7:33 pm on Mon, Oct 28, 2013.

    PAS304 Posts: 5

    Argh! Kouchi and Tokioka both cop to voting based on their religious views and what their constituents want. Wrong on two counts. #1 - Separation of church and state. #2 - They were elected to uphold the Constitution of the State of Hawaii, which declares that "All persons are free by nature and are equal in their inherent and inalienable rights..." not do what they think their constituents want. That is what they swear to when they take their oath as a representative.

    This is not about God, it is about equality. Period.

  • Goldie Cross posted at 6:19 pm on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    Goldie Cross Posts: 3

    The people voted in 1998, (71% opposed - 29% supported) on the question of Same Sex Marriage. In 2009 on a Civil Unions bill was placed on the ballot and it too was defeated. In 2011 the Legislature introduced a Civil Unions bill which was signed by Gov. Abercrombie that was suppose to give same-sex couples all the same legal benefits as marriage. Here we are 2 years later discussing the same issue.

    I disagree with the article that the majority of the churches on Kauai support Same Sex Marriage. The United Church of Christ does but that's the only denomination that I'm aware of that supports SSM. The Hawaii Catholic Diocese, New Hope Christian Fellowship, and the Assemblies of God, just to name a few are opposed to this bill.

    Both Dee Morikawa and Derek Kawakami are planning to vote in favor of Same Sex marriage based on their personal feelings and are not listening to the majority of their constituents on this issue. They were elected to represent the people, not promote their own agenda or vote based on their 'personal feelings'. This is too important of a decision to be decided by 76 representatives that have been strong armed by a vocal minority as well as the Governor who supports legalizing Same Sex Marriage in the State of Hawaii.

    I would like the legislature to introduce a constitutional amendment and place the question on the ballot so that all the voters of Hawaii have a voice and settle this question once and for all.

  • Word0fGod posted at 1:48 pm on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    Word0fGod Posts: 10

    Book Of Jude 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

    5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

    8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.

  • bpeyton posted at 12:24 pm on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    bpeyton Posts: 1653

    Good for Dee Morikawa, and Derek Kawakami! Derek puts freedom of choice - the freedom that allows people to make their own decisions, as long as they don't harm others - above his personal beliefs, unlike Roy Sasaki and Ron Kouchi, who insist everyone must live by the rules of their beliefs. It is this kind on intolerance that create so many injustices.

    Shame on some Christians who criticize some Muslims for their intolerance, then show their own intolerance. Taking certain statements out of holy books and using them to condem but choosing to ignore other statements makes them judgers and hypocrites. So, unless we want to start stoning people to death...cut it out already!

    Live and let live.

  • Andy Parx posted at 12:04 pm on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    Andy Parx Posts: 298

    Can somebody PLEASE run against Jimmy. Speaking of abominations. The only legitimate poll of the district says that people want to see him GONE. How incredibly out of touch must he be to think his constituents are against civil rights?

  • PvilleHalfTimer posted at 10:34 am on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    PvilleHalfTimer Posts: 53

    Interesting comment from one legislator that "God is the real governor of Hawaii" and from another who votes "based on the church he belongs to". Hey guys, if you don't understand the most basic laws of the land--here the separation of church and state--you're really not fit to govern.

  • LCicotello posted at 9:42 am on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    LCicotello Posts: 3

    This issue has to stop being framed in a religious context. Marriage is a civil union -- a legal contract -- entered into by two consenting adults. We know that it is a legal contract because while most (but not all) marriages start in a place of worship, ALL divorces take place in court. In 1998, SCOTUS ruled in Romer v. Evans that it is unconstitutional to freeze a legally recognized group of people out of the legal system. This was one of the reasons given a few weeks ago in the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.

    Traditionally, marriage was not about the white dress and a cake. Marriage served as a legal contract binding two families in order to protect wealth or other goods. To this day, it is very possible to get married in front of a justice of the peace and never step one foot into a place of worship. The idea of same-sex marriage was foisted on the LGBT and propagated in the past 30 years because it got people to open their checkbooks and throw copious amounts of financial resources at churches, who are, by their nature, called to welcome everyone with open arms.

    If a place of worship decides not to bless someone's marriage, fine: We will shake the dust off of our feet and go where we are welcomed, not condemned.

    As for my family, my parents are the first couple in the United States to stay married in a now same-sex marriage after my dad transitioned from male to female almost 30 years ago. My parents committed to "Let No One Rend Asunder" their wedding vows and have worked very hard to legalize same-sex marriage. When people gasp and say, "Think of what will happen to children who grow up in those kind of families," I very much do!! I think of my multitude of friends who grew up in homes headed by LGBT parents. These folks are among some of the most most successful, compassionate and passionate people I know. Peace and Aloha!!

  • violet lotus posted at 9:38 am on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    violet lotus Posts: 20

    Ron Kouchi should not be drawing on his personal leanings, derived from his church, to base his political decisions. We did not elect him under those pretenses.
    Keep your personal views separate from your job as a representative of the people.
    Saying "freedom of religion" is a complete misuse of the term!!
    Very unprofessional!

  • Jassbrown posted at 6:11 am on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    Jassbrown Posts: 153

    Rev Sasaki, may you be blessed is a gay child/grandchild. May you come to know a gay person and hopefully someone gay will take care of you in your time of need.

  • sgoold posted at 6:01 am on Sun, Oct 27, 2013.

    sgoold Posts: 477

    Much mahalo to Ms. Morikawa: “Enough of this discrimination thing,” said state Rep. Dee Morikawa

    The males continue their bigotry. Kouchi claims it's due to his church. No church of Jesus would deny love to people. No church of Jesus would JUDGE other people. Let god decide. God made us all ... enough of this bigotry.

    It is our generation's kuleana to right this wrong. Let love be free!


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