ip,,,1The two bills passed 15-10 and will be sent to the House, which is expected to reject them, prompting a conference committee where the two chambers will try to settle their differences.
Senators voting in favor contended that the U.S. Supreme Court might interpret a House-proposed amendment as an unconstitutional attempt to abolish rights won in court by an unpopular minority group.
The Senate's version - which allows marriage to be limited as long as others are not deprived of civil rights based on sex - expresses the tolerant spirit of Hawaii and is not based on "fear, hatred and bigotry," said Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley (D, East Maui-North Kauai).
"Our purpose in supporting this bill is to preserve Hawaii's commitment to traditional marriage without violating our Constitution," he said.
But Sen. Randall Iwase (D,Mililani-Waipio Gentry) argued the constitutional concerns were unwarranted, and said voters simply want an amendment that clearly reserves marriage for a man and woman.
"The Senate again turns its back to the people," he said. "The Senate again is intransigent. The Senate is again the obstacle."
When questioned by Iwase, Judiciary Co-Chairman Matt Matsunaga acknowledged his committee no longer views the right to marry as a civil right, but said it must be included in the amendment to satisfy concerns raised in a pivotal 1993 state high court ruling.
The Senate's benefits package would allow any two people who cannot legally marry to declare themselves reciprocal beneficiaries and qualify for some 200 state marital benefits.
Adoption and other rights evolving from traditional marriage would not be included, and only same-sex couples could share health insurance benefits.
Voting against the measures were Sens. James Aki, Whitney Anderson, Robert Bunda, Marshall Ige, Iwase, Cal Kawamoto, Norman Sakamoto, Sam Slom, Malama Solomon and Joe Tanaka.
House Speaker Joe Souki (D, Maalaea-Wailuku) and Judiciary Chairman Terrance Tom (D, Kahaluu-Kaneohe) issued a statement saying the Senate's amendment would "virtually guarantee" same-sex marriage, and stating concern about the cost of the benefits package.
The House's amendment proposal specifies that laws and rules limiting marriage to a man and a woman do not violate the state's due process and equal protection clause.
If the measure is ratified, reciprocal beneficiaries would get four benefits.
After being gay for 13 years - during which he contracted the AIDS virus - Johnston said he chose to change. He says he is now straight. An "ex-gay."
Johnston and a panel of three other "ex-gays" from the mainland yesterday told legislators that not everyone who is gay wants to be that way. They support religious organizations like Exodus International that help homosexuals make the change.
The comments followed a hearing in which the Senate passed two bills preserving traditional marriage and extending benefits to domestic partners. Republican Reps. Gene Ward, Bob McDermott and Colleen Meyer were the only legislators present.
The panel warned the legislators that legalizing same-sex marriage would elevate a lifestyle that is against the Bible. They said lawmakers have a responsibility not to be fooled by claims that homosexuals are born that way.
"'Gay rights' is a counterfeit civil rights movement," said Anthony Falzarano, who said he was gay for nine years before reforming. "The myth that homosexuals are born gay is a lie."
The panel also agreed that promiscuity is the nature of homosexuality, and allowing homosexuals to marry won't change that.
Not so, said Owen Green, a critic at the discussion.
"Promiscuity has nothing to do with homosexuality," said Green, who is homosexual. "It's a purely male trait. Look at male dogs.
"These people are all in denial. They can walk with all the swans they want, but they're still ducks."
But Falzarano said he has the numbers to prove his claim: More than 18,000 people have passed the Exodus International program with a 100 percent success rate of reform, he said.
Exodus International started in 1986 and is based in Seattle. Its reform process is similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous, in which the individual changes at his or her own pace, said "ex-gay" John Paulk.
Paulk is married to Anne Paulk, also an "ex-gay," who said 85 percent of those who go through Exodus International have common experiences: They were sexually molested and have overdominating mothers and emotionally detached fathers.