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Friday, March 19, 2004



Gay pair from isles
ties knot in Oregon


Oahu residents Lisa and Cyn Connais cried tears of joy after being married on the steps of a Portland, Ore., courthouse, where county officials continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"I didn't think it was possible to get a marriage license in my lifetime," said Lisa Connais, 43.

The Connaises are among many same-sex couples who were issued marriage licenses in Multnomah County despite opposition by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Attorney General Hardy Myers.

More than 2,200 gay and lesbian couples have received marriage licenses in Multnomah County since March 3, according to the Oregonian newspaper in Portland. Three days ago, Benton became the second county in Oregon to allow same-sex marriage licenses starting next week.

Lisa and Cyn first met in Texas almost 21 years ago and spent a couple of years together before their jobs led them to separate locations.

The couple was reunited in Hawaii 3 1/2 years ago after Cyn joined Lisa, who moved here first. They had their last names changed in November 2001 to Connais, which means "to know and understand" in French. Three months later, they celebrated their union in a commitment ceremony.

"She's my best friend," said Lisa, a registered nurse for Hospice Hawaii. "She is full of life."

The couple compared the controversial debate of marriages between same-sex couples to past debates of marriages between interracial couples. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriages.

"We're looking at the same thing," said Lisa, who is originally from Chicago. She is Caucasian and Cyn is African American. "Nobody wanted interracial marriages, either."

"Inch by inch is what it's going to take. As long as it keeps going forward, then people will realize that we are just like everyone else," Lisa said, adding that she hopes that same-sex marriages would be allowed in Hawaii.

But a bill introduced in this year's legislative session establishing civil unions between same-sex couples in Hawaii died in the House Judiciary Committee last month.

Hawaii voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 1998 giving the Legislature the power to restrict marriage to people of the opposite sex. Afterward, legislators passed the so-called reciprocal benefits law that allows some benefits such as health benefits and probate and property transfers to homosexual couples or nontraditional families.

The Connaises first planned to get a marriage license in San Francisco but were forced to change plans after the California Supreme Court ordered city officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

They booked a flight to Portland -- unsure of whether they could obtain a license due to opposition by Kulongoski and Myers.

The Connaises said they stood in line with other same-sex couples on Monday when it was announced that Multnomah County Chairwoman Diane Linn would allow employees to continue issuing marriage licenses.

About a half-hour afterward, the couple received their marriage license and were married.

"I was absolutely thrilled and tickled," said Cyn, 44, a counselor originally from Missouri.

Though their marriage is not recognized in Hawaii, the couple said they were grateful that they were given the same opportunity as heterosexual couples in Multnomah County.

"We're not going to have a lot of legal benefits, but we will have each other," she said.

"If nothing else, for a day and a half in the city of Portland, Ore., we were as equal as every other married couple in Portland, Ore.," said Cyn.

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