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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, October 17, 1998

Would same-sex
marriage help Hawaii?

In a recent TV drama, the defense attorney sat on a courthouse bench in despair after losing a murder trial that he thought he had won for his client with arguments about legal technicalities. A juror came by and the lawyer asked what he had said wrong.

"You said a lot of things in your closing argument," the juror told him. "You said everything except that your client is innocent."

A wary voter gets the same feeling about the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Leading proponents have said that the people who oppose same-sex marriage are the same people who turned hoses and attack dogs on protesting blacks in the 1960s. They've said that denying same-sex marriage rights is the same thing as forcing Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. They've said that rejection of same-sex marriage is a stepping stone to a ban on abortion.

They've said everything except that same-sex marriage would be good for Hawaii. And that's the nut of the dilemma facing the serious voter who has an open mind and a vote up for grabs, but is waiting for somebody to show that turning marriage law on its head is the only way -- or the best way -- to correct inequities.

As the ones proposing radical social change, the burden is on proponents of same-sex marriage to show why it would be good for Hawaii.

But they haven't seriously tried to make a positive case for same-sex marriage, instead building their campaign around bogus civil rights hysteria. They say the issue isn't about marriage, barely mentioning the word in their commercials urging a "no" vote on the constitutional amendment to preserve the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

They've falsely painted all who question them as bigoted zealots and run a campaign aimed mainly at deceiving people as to what a "yes" vote or "no" vote means. Like the jurors in the TV drama, voters have to wonder about the righteousness of the cause when the strategy of its proponents is to obscure the cause.

This issue is about marriage.

The Bill of Rights is not at stake. The Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution says nothing about marriage rights for same-sex partners. If our state constitutional amendment passes, it will in no way change the U.S. Bill of Rights.

This is not about taking away anybody's civil rights. There is no established civil right to marry a partner of the same sex anywhere in the United States. It's not even under serious consideration in any other state.

The issue is about extending rights, not taking away rights. We're being asked to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples far beyond what any other state allows. Even the most liberal countries in Europe don't allow same-sex marriage to the extent that Hawaii voters are being asked to sanction.

HAWAII has every right to provide greater marriage rights to same-sex partners than the other 49 states and the rest of the world if we so desire. But we're under no obligation -- legally or morally -- to take the national lead on this contentious issue if we don't think it's good for Hawaii.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who says she will vote against the constitutional amendment even though she personally opposes same-sex marriage, is correct to say that it comes down to a vote of conscience. But conscience can take a voter either way on this issue.

Proponents would be well-advised to get on point in the next two weeks and make a positive case why gay marriage is a good idea for Hawaii. Otherwise, they risk a majority voting "yes" to preserve existing marriage laws with a very clear conscience.

Same-sex marriage:
Past articles

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at editor@starbulletin.com.

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