Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, October 13, 1998

Voters should reject
same-sex marriage

I am strongly pro-choice on abortion. I am equally strong for a "Yes" vote on the constitutional amendment to let the Legislature reserve marriage to persons of opposite sex.

Some current ads say I must be all mixed up. No. No. No. It's the other way around: The ad writers want to mix us up.

In no way -- as some current "Vote No" advertising suggests -- does a "Yes" voter risk ending free choice for abortion. Choice is a concept overwhelmingly accepted in Hawaii. We legalized it even before the U.S. Supreme Court OK'd it nationally. I'm proud the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, under my editorship, was in the forefront of that campaign.

Do I also, as other ads suggest, want to destroy our state Bill of Rights? More deceptive hogwash! I simply want to protect us from an interpretation by our state Supreme Court flatly contrary to what was in the minds of our original 1950 state Constitution drafters.

I was around when the sexual equality section of our Constitution was born. In no way did the 63 delegates to the 1950 convention intend to condone same-sex marriage. Sexual equality for them meant equality in voting, in government programs, in the work place and between man and wife. Same-sex marriage wasn't even dreamed of. Had it been, it would have been voted down, possibly unanimously.

Times change, and the five current justices of our state high court apparently felt obliged to find that the technical meaning of sexual equality now covers the new situation of gays wanting to marry. But we won't be destroying our Bill of Rights if we vote "Yes" to make it possible to go back to the old understanding.

We will simply be doing what we have done often since 1950 -- amending the Constitution to keep up with the current wishes of the populace. Every single word in the Hawaii Constitution is voter-ratified -- either after the original 1950 convention, after the follow-up 1968 and 1978 conventions, or by amendments submitted separately at general elections.

We wrote it. We can change it. And we can override this dramatic reinterpretation of it. For years our five Supreme Court justices, even though there were personnel shifts, have had a strong inclination to write law themselves. They do it under the guise of "interpretation" instead of leaving the task to our governor, 25 senators and 51 representatives. I hope we will rein in our galloping court on this issue, at least.

In all communities -- perhaps most particularly a mixed-ethnic community like ours -- respect for the values of others is important. Same-sex marriage offends very many. It defies centuries of affirmation against it by cultures worldwide. It also defies dictionary definitions that focus on marriage as between husband and wife.

OUR high court's 1993 ruling reverberated across America. It led to defensive legislation by Congress and in other states. If we Hawaii voters want to enact some defensive legislation of our own, that is our right. In this area, the decision of the voters Nov. 3 can override the Supreme Court and take us back to pre-1993 understandings. I hope "Yes" will win big.

That said, if the "Yes" votes win I hope the Legislature will use its power to respect also the rights and deep emotions of gays. I hope it will allow them full-fledged "domestic partnerships" with most of the rights of marriage but not the label.

This strikes me as a workable compromise, respectful to both sides.

Same-sex marriage:
Past articles

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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