National Edition

Hawaii's largest faiths oppose same-sex marriage bill

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15 2013 6:00 a.m. MDT

Bishop Fitzpatrick had also signed a resolution a month earlier along with about two dozen other faith leaders of mainline Protestant, Jewish and other congregations calling on the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage.

On Sunday, local LDS Church leaders read a letter to the adult men and women organizations of local congregations stressing the church's position against same-sex marriage and the bill:

"There are two reasons for our opposition: First, it attempts to redefine marriage. The church is firm in its belief that marriage as the union of a man and a woman is essential to the well-being of children, families, and society. Second, the protections offered in the current draft are completely inadequate to safeguard constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms. Traditional marriage and religious liberty are among the most cherished and historically vital elements of society, and both deserve careful protection."

The letter signed by local stake leadership expressed respect for those "who choose to live by other values," and urges church members to "educate yourselves on these matters and to let your voice be heard through the democratic process. We encourage you to call, write and visit your elected representatives to let them know where you stand. Join your voices with others in organizations who share your views."

Second statement

The letter was the second the LDS Church has presented to members about the bill and upcoming special session. A letter read by local leaders on Sept. 14 advised members to study the church's 1995 Proclamation on the Family, which speaks out against gay marriage, and call their legislators to express their views.

"Whether or not you favor the proposed change, we hope that you will urge your elected representatives to include in any such legislation a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith," stated a copy of the letter from the Mililani Stake Presidency, one of 15 stakes in Hawaii where more than 71,000 Mormons live.

The earlier letter didn't sit right with some of the leading opponents of gay marriage who saw it as emphasizing an exemption instead of opposing the bill.

"I think that’s a mistake," Hochberg said a week after the letter was read. "We don’t support that position (of focusing on a religious exemption). ... If you are for plan B you will get plan B. And that’s our position, no plan B."

He said HFA and local LDS Church leaders had met to discuss what he characterized as competing messages.

Mililani Stake President Owen Matsunaga, a local Mormon leader involved in the campaign against the current bill, said in an email Sunday there was some confusion in the local press about the church's position and that the new leter is "a reaffirmation of our position in relation to same-sex marriage and religious liberty issues."

Hochberg, who didn't respond to a request for comment on the LDS Church's latest statement, doesn't place much confidence in religious exemptions: "It doesn't matter what kind of exemption is written, it is going to fail at some point," he said.

Instead, HFA is lobbying for the bill's defeat and legislation that would put the question of same-sex marriage up for a popular vote. That would be similar to what happened in 1998, when voters took the question out of the court's hands and authorized the Legislature as the only body that can reserve legal marriage for opposite-sex couples.

Hochberg contends that the marriage equality proposal violates the 1998 constitutional amendment because it changes the definition of marriage, and so the question should go back to voters to decide if they want to amend the state constitution again. If lawmakers pass the marriage equality bill and don't let voters decide, his group will sue.

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