To Our Readers

By John Flanagan


Same-sex: It's not a popularity contest

THE results of the Star-Bulletin poll on gay marriage and domestic partnerships aren't surprising. Friday's paper reported that 74 percent of registered voters on Oahu disapprove of same-sex marriage and 66 percent disapprove of gay and lesbian couples entering into domestic partnerships to receive many of the benefits married heterosexual couples enjoy.

Popular approval or disapproval isn't what's at stake, however. The Hawaii Supreme Court isn't the court of public opinion and its justices have ruled that, based on Hawaii's Constitution, the state has to find a compelling reason to legally discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.

The poll reminds us that one of the purposes of constitutional government is to protect the rights of unpopular -- even despised -- minorities against the will of the majority. Many have said this is what freedom is all about: the right to do something that isn't popular, as long as it doesn't hurt somebody else.

Proponents ask how gay and lesbian unions undermine the rights of the majority, many of whom find the idea of same-sex spouses abominable, objectionable or morally wrong. So far, opponents haven't been able to show that extending spousal rights to same-sex couples diminishes the rights of other citizens.

The American Revolution was fought over the rights of individuals to pursue happiness as each sees fit. Ever since, those rights have been in peril.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin. To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, e-mail to or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

© copyright 1996, Honolulu Star-Bulletin. All rights reserved.

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