Gay unions score low in Star-Bulletin Poll

By Alan Matsuoka

Same-sex marriage may prevail in the courts, but Hawaii residents are firmly against legalizing unions between gay and lesbian couples - whether it be marriage or a domestic partnership.

That's one of the findings of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin Poll, as lawmakers here and on the mainland grapple to find a way to deal with an anticipated judicial ruling that would force the state to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed disapproved of same-sex marriage, the highest such figure to appear in a Star-Bulletin poll, while 21 percent approved.

To bring the point home that hearts and minds remain with tradition, 66 percent said they disapproved of a compromise Senate measure that would preserve marriage for heterosexuals but allow homosexuals to receive many marital benefits through state-sanctioned domestic partnerships. Those approving the idea constituted 32 percent.

The high same-sex opposition rate is close to the 71 percent frequently cited by those involved in the issue. In previous Star-Bulletin polls, opposition has hovered in the 60 percent range. The margin of error in the latest survey, taken March 15-17, is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The poll was taken soon after conservative Christian groups - including the Roman Catholic Church, Hawaii's largest religious group with some 230,000 members - waged an aggressive lobbying campaign against same-gender unions.

Some of those surveyed later cited their religious beliefs and used words like "immoral" and "disgrace" to explain their opposition.

"I'm afraid that if it's accepted in Hawaii, I just feel that the Lord's wrath will come down on our state," said Judy Bland, 55, a nondenominational born-again Christian from Kihei.

But the action favored by conservatives - putting a constitutional amendment before voters in November that would prohibit homosexual marriage - has not generated a comparable following. A bare majority of those polled, 51 percent, said they favor such an amendment, while 42 percent were opposed.

Randal Fuffern, 25, a restaurant manager from Kaimuki, was against both same-sex marriage and the amendment, and thought the decision-making should stay with the politicians.

"They should just get it over with, I think, because if they're going to put it in front of the voters, they're just making it a bigger issue than it should be," he said. "I personally don't believe it should even be an issue."

The prospect of legalized homosexual marriage has already prompted 19 state legislatures to consider laws to ban them, and hardly anyone polled believes it would be good for Hawaii's national reputation. Sixty-seven percent saw a negative impact, while 30 percent thought it would make no difference.

Respondents said legalization would have even less of an impact on the islands' $10 billion-a-year tourism industry, with 53 percent seeing a bad effect, but 43 percent believing it would make no difference.

While some said families may be dissuaded from vacationing here, 76-year-old Don Epperson, a Pahoa artist and retired Los Angeles county official, thought Hawaii's sunny climate would be the overriding draw.

"I think it could attract a lot of homosexual people who come here to get married, but a tourist is a tourist, you know, and money is money," he said. "And I don't think it would bother too many people. I mean, San Francisco is a great tourist town."

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