New isle PAC hopes to
derail gay marriages

A Hawaii Constitution amendment
would give legislators the power

By Mike Yuen

In a prelude to what could be a costly and bitter battle, a political action committee has been formed to push a constitutional amendment that would give legislators the right to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Save Traditional Marriage-'98 intends to raise several hundred thousand dollars in the next 12 months, its leaders said yesterday.

It has scheduled a $100-a-person fund-raising dinner for Nov. 20 at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

In conjunction with the dinner, the newly formed PAC is hosting a $125-a-person business seminar earlier that day. The cost to attend both events is $200.

Stephen Covey, the best-selling author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families," is the featured speaker at both the dinner and seminar.

The PAC's leaders hope the two events will raise between $40,000 and $50,000.

The group's co-chairman, Bill Paul, the former chairman of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and the then-Hawaii Visitors Bureau, said the PAC needs to be well financed because he and others see national gay rights organizations financing a big-bucks campaign to defeat the proposed amendment.

"They're looking to expand their political agenda," said Paul, who in 1974 ran as a Republican in an unsuccessful race against the late Spark Matsunaga, then a U.S. representative.

Paul and John Hoag, a member of the PAC's steering committee, also pointed to President Clinton's recent address to the Human Rights Campaign as a signal they need to be well financed. The campaign is the nation's largest gay and lesbian organization, with a PAC that contributed $1.2 million in the last election cycle.

Tracey Bennett, the former lobbyist for Marriage Project Hawaii, said that, while there will be a drive to kill the proposed constitutional amendment, she believes only "a limited amount" of national gay rights campaign funds will flow into Hawaii.

"The Hawaii Constitution grants equal rights to all people. It should not be amended casually," Bennett said.

Attorney Dan Foley, who represents three same-sex couples seeking state marriage licenses, said passage of the amendment will not end the emotional debate that has divided Hawaii in recent years. Under it, lawmakers will still have the option to legalize gay marriages, he noted.

But what makes passage of the proposed amendment potentially divisive, Foley argued, is that it turns the same-sex marriage issue "into a political football that will come back into the Legislature every two years. The only way to end this debate is to defeat this initiative. Otherwise, people are going to be constantly running on it. It'll be around forever."

The proposed amendment was part of a compromise forged earlier this year by the House, which took a dim view of homosexual marriages, and the Senate, which was more open to gay unions. The other part of the compromise was the Senate-pushed plan to grant some 50 state marital rights and benefits to "reciprocal beneficiaries," couples comprised of gays or lesbians, or any two people who cannot wed legally.

Shortly after the compromise was struck, traditional-marriage advocates -- such as Hoag, who's also vice chairman of Hawaii's Future Today, and Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Alliance for Traditional Marriage and its PAC -- began wondering what needed to be done to ensure voter approval of the proposed amendment.

The result: A PAC was born whose sole purpose is supporting passage of the constitutional proposal.

Gabbard and Hoag were listed as the PAC's co-chairmen when it filed its organizational report with the state Campaign Spending Commission two months ago. But that was purely for filing purposes to get the PAC going, Hoag said.

Leadership has since been turned over to Paul and business executive Diane Ho Kurtz, who last year nearly toppled Senate President Norman Mizuguchi in the Democratic primary by strongly emphasizing her opposition to same-sex marriage.

In an Oct. 24 letter, the leaders of Hawaii's Future Today asked their members to attend this month's fund-raiser for Save Traditional Marriage-'98.

Gabbard said with the new PAC focusing on the constitutional initiative, his organization's PAC will continue to target politicians who support gay marriages and back those who don't.

On the ballot

The proposed constitutional amendment, which will appear on next year's general election ballot, reads:

"Shall the Constitution of the state of Hawaii be amended to specify that the Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples?"

Steering committee
for PAC group

Here's the steering committee of Save Traditional Marriage-'98, the recently formed political action committee seeking passage of the proposed constitutional amendment restricting marriage to opposite-sex couple:

Co-Chairwoman Diane Ho Kurtz: Executive vice president, Hawaii Biotechnology Group Inc.
Co-Chairman Bill Paul: Former chairman of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and the Hawaii Visitors Bureau
Treasurer Ronald Choo: Accountant
The Rev. Marc Alexander: Vice chairman of Hawaii's Future Today
Mike Gabbard: Chairman of the Alliance for Traditional Marriage
Jack Hoag: Chairman of Hawaii Reserves Inc. and vice chairman of Hawaii's Future Today
Janice Pechauer: Interior designer
Leon Siu: Entertainer
Vern Ta'a: Plumbers union leader

Same-sex marriage:
Past articles

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