Friday, October 2, 1998

Division in clergy on
same-sex marriage

THE religious community does not speak with one voice on the issue of same-sex marriage and the proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot. This division of opinion was underscored at a news conference held by Protestant ministers who deplored the media campaign against same-sex marriage as a use of "tactics of fear and intolerance."

The ministers, of the Lutheran and Methodist churches and the United Church of Christ, particularly objected to one TV message showing a child reading a book about two men getting married. In favor of the amendment are the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and fundamentalist Christian churches.

However, the other side has also indulged in questionable tactics, claiming that opponents of same-sex marriage would tamper with constitutional rights. But the case in point is on appeal to the state Supreme Court, which has yet to render a final decision on the question. Unless and until the court rejects the state's appeal -- which it probably will do if the proposed amendment is defeated -- and any possible further legal challenges are decided, a constitutional right to same-sex marriage does not exist.

The vote on the proposed amendment would give the citizens of Hawaii an opportunity for the first time to express their views directly on this issue. At the time the state Constitution was adopted, there was no indication that it could be interpreted to protect same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court's interpretation was a surprise to most residents. They hadn't the faintest suspicion that they had approved such a provision.

In a democracy, people should have an opportunity to vote on such a sensitive issue. For this reason, we have supported placing the question on the ballot.

However, we believe the proposal, which would authorize the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage, should be rejected. Whatever one's views of homosexuality as a moral question, they should not determine public policy.

Legal recognition of same-sex marriages would not constitute approval of homosexuality, only toleration of a minority lifestyle. The state should not make decisions on issues of morality unless a compelling need exists -- and there is none in this case.

Same-sex marriage:
Past articles


Federal budget surplus

PRESIDENT Clinton can be forgiven for doing some unabashed crowing over the first federal budget surplus in 29 years. Vice President Al Gore, playing the role of chief administration cheerleader, proclaimed, "Mr. President, the naysayers were wrong and you were right" (about his 1993 deficit reduction plan). But as usual with politicians claiming credit for good things that happen, the president's role in achieving the surplus was exaggerated. Certainly the Republican Congress had something to do with it by restraining government spending.

And it's probable that the economic expansion that is mainly responsible for the budget surplus would have occurred regardless of any action by either Clinton or Congress. The private sector deserves much of the credit, along with the Federal Reserve for keeping the nation on a stable monetary course.

However, the rare achievement of a budget surplus may not become any less unusual. The current world economic climate is one of uncertainty and falling confidence, reflected in collapsing stock prices. Economists are warning that the United States cannot insulate itself from the effects of a threatened worldwide recession.

If the U.S. economy experiences a downturn, the budget surplus may evaporate quickly. Sooner or later, the recovery will end, and it could happen sooner than most observers were predicting a few months ago. A weaker economy will make it much harder to balance the federal budget. So let's enjoy the surplus while we can.


Mainland police raids

RECRUITMENT of Honolulu police officers by police departments in Oregon and Washington has hardly left Oahu residents unprotected against crime, but the city should try to prevent the talent drain from reaching alarming proportions. Pay increases, perhaps initially in the form of bonuses, may be needed to compete against higher salaries offered by mainland cities.

Recruiters from the county police department in Seattle were here in August, followed by recruiters from city and county police departments serving the Portland, Ore., area, the Oregon State Police Department and the Washington State Patrol. The Portland city department alone has 80 openings now and anticipates 220 more in the next few years.

Honolulu apparently has a reputation for superior police training. However, Honolulu officers with 15 years of experience are paid about the same as those in Portland and Seattle with only five years on the job. The lower cost of living, strong public school systems and lower taxes in the Pacific Northwest add to the lure.

City Councilman Jon Yoshimura suggests paying Honolulu officers more than the wages negotiated in the statewide contract with the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. Counties are forbidden by state law from negotiating individually with SHOPO, according to Sandi Ebesu, the city's human resources director. Past attempts to amend the law to allow individual county bargaining have failed, but efforts should be renewed in the next Legislature because of the mainland raids.

In the meantime, Sgt. Rick Wheeler, president of SHOPO's Oahu chapter, says the statewide contract doesn't prevent the city from paying bonuses. Call it hostile fire pay or whatever you like, as long as it keeps mainland raids from depleting the ranks of Honolulu's finest.

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