Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, May 15, 1996

Same-sex marriage battle to rage for years

POLITICAL consumer alert: When politicians tell you the same-sex marriage debate won't have political repercussions, don't believe them. This is a core controversy that will become a debate point and wedge issue far into the next millennium.

Just as the arguments continue to rage about abortion and the death penalty, the issue of the state sanctioning marriage between persons of the same sex is going to be with us for a long time.

This spring, although the state Legislature couldn't pay public workers and was going through the agonies of trying to balance a budget without raising taxes, the same-sex marriage issue, not dollars for poor people, dominated the season.

This issue has legs.

For example, take a look at who is running for Hawaii's Democratic Party national committeewoman at next week's state Democratic Party convention: Linda Rosehill and Amy Agbayani.

Rosehill is the incumbent. She is an attorney, a lobbyist and a solid, longtime Democratic Party insider. She was hired this year to lead the lobbying effort against same-sex marriage, Hawaii's Future Today.

She resigned her position as liaison between the local Democratic Party and the 1996 Clinton/Gore re-election campaign. In 1992 Rosehill was chairwoman of the Democratic Party Coordinating Committee.

"I see myself as being pretty liberal and tolerant of people's lifestyles. But when I got involved, I found I could not reach the conclusion that this is a civil rights issue," Rosehill said.

The opposite conclusion was reached by the chairwoman of the state's Civil Rights Commission, Amy Agbayani, a university professor and longtime activist. The commission, she said, went on record in support of same-sex marriage.

"I definitely take a different stand than Linda Rosehill, but there are many other issues in the Democratic Party that I want to raise," she said.

Both candidates fear that the same-sex issue will make them into one-dimensional candidates. Party Chairman Richard Port, who like Agbayani is allied to the liberal wing of the party, says the same-sex issue won't be a political issue this fall.

But Rosehill's group is planning to continue the campaign to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

She is working with church groups and other interested organizations to register voters and get out the vote for candidates who support their position.

SHE doubts that Hawaii's Future Today will find candidates to run for the Legislature but she will be looking for ways to help candidates who oppose same-sex marriage.

Agbayani, in contrast, is working for the re-election of both U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and state Rep. Dennis Arakaki. The same-sex issue has yet to force a vote in Congress. In the state House, Arakaki voted against Agbayani's position.

The same-sex issue continues this year in the courtroom as the state struggles to define Hawaii's civil rights, but the issue will force supporters on both sides to start organizing and lobbying in the Legislature.

Rosehill and Agbayani are just the forerunners on an issue that will shape our views and perhaps even our Legislature for years to come.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics on Wednesday. Write him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802 or send e-mail to

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