National Edition

Hawaii becomes 15th state to legalize gay marriage, lesbian lawmaker explains her opposition to law

Published: Monday, Nov. 18 2013 2:45 p.m. MST

Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage on Wednesday as Gov. Neil Ambercrombie signed the bill that passed the legislature earlier this week after a long special session.

Oskar Garcia, Associated Press

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Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage on Wednesday as Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the bill that passed the legislature earlier this week after a long special session.

Many predicted the bill would pass, but no one anticipated the public hearing in the House would take up four days as lawmakers accommodated more than 4,600 people who had something to say about the contentious and emotional issue.

Another surprise was the no vote by Rep. Jo Jordan, a Democrat and lesbian.

In an exclusive interview with Honolulu Magazine, the lifelong resident said she took her personal life out of her decision and voted against a bill that she didn't think represented the best interests of the state.

"We don’t need a lot of Mainlanders coming and telling us what we gotta do. And you’ll hear that going on," she said about the lobbying last session and which continued into the special session. "I said, 'You know what, I’m here with my legislative hat, not my personal hat. You guys move forward with whatever you’re doing, and I don’t want to be a participant in that.' I stepped out of it."

First Things reported that Jordan cited religious liberty as her concern with the bill. But according to the Honolulu interview, Jordan never mentions religious liberty specifically, though she does say that the religious exemptions in the bill were not adequate for Hawaii.

"I’m not here to protect the big churches or the little churches. I’m saying we can’t erode what’s currently out there," she told the magazine. "We don’t want to scratch at the religious protections at all, because if we don’t create a measure that’s bulletproof, or as close to bulletproof as possible, then the measure will go to the courts."

The Associated Press reported that Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican who filed a lawsuit to derail the special session, promised a new challenge after Abercrombie signed the bill. A judge has said he will take up the case.

It was a lawsuit more than 20 years ago by two women seeking a marriage license in Hawaii that ignited the gay marriage movement across the country. A state Supreme Court ruling in 1993 found the women's equal protection rights were violated and precipitated Congress passing the Defense of Marriage Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA in June, which prompted Abercrombie to call the special session.

Some of the state's largest religious denominations came out against the bill, seeking instead to put the issue on the ballot to let the general public decide.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, expressed disappointment in Hawaii legalizing gay marriage.

“Changing the meaning of marriage in the law does not promote the common good or protect authentic rights,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

He said marriage promotes the right of children to have a mother and a father.

"The question we need to ask ourselves is this: How can we honestly justify a law that in principle denies children this right?”

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @deseretbrown

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