Thursday, October 29, 1998

Same-Sex Marriage: Bitter Battleground
On Tuesday, voters will be asked "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?"
The question has divided Hawaii residents along political, emotional and spiritual lines that aren't always clear.
Today the Star-Bulletin looks at some of the political divisions, alliances and possible consequences of the proposed amendment.
Tomorrow, we'll examine the issue from the state's pulpits and pews, and see how church members and leaders are looking for an answer to the same-sex marriage question.

Decision 98: Time of Change

Your guide to the election

By Mike Yuen


The fight over whether to impose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has not been just a media war waged with dueling TV spots, newspaper advertisements and press conferences.

Campaign '98 It's also been a bitter battleground for the Hawaii Democratic Party. Prominent party members are among the field generals and voices in media appeals on both sides of the issue.

And when voters make their decision in five days, state party Chairman Walter Heen fears that the ballot-fight fallout will affect individual races. His concern: some party nominees will lose because they and the party will be perceived as favoring same-sex marriage, although the party has not taken a position on the issue.

"How many? I can't tell at this point. But that suffering will be unfairly visited on some of the (Democratic) candidates," says Heen, who, as a substitute associate justice in 1993, wrote the dissenting opinion when the Hawaii Supreme Court left the door open to legalizing same-sex marriages.

Initially, groups opposed to the amendment claimed the endorsement of the 29,000-member state Democratic Party. Then they were challenged by foes, who happen to be Democrats.

The isle group Protect Our Constitution and the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, erased the Hawaii Democratic Party from their list of endorsers. But they also printed new brochures that contained the text of a resolution passed at this year's Democratic state convention.

It opposes any constitutional amendment that would erode the Hawaii Bill of Rights. That bolsters the arguments of opponents to the proposed marriage amendment, as they contend that matrimony is a basic civil right that should not be denied to gays and lesbians.

"This is what our Democratic Party stands for," asserts Jackie Young, the former House vice speaker who's the campaign director for Protect Our Constitution.

Young insists that Linda Rosehill, the former Democratic national committeewoman who's the strategist for Save Traditional Marriage-'98, should be asked if she's a good Democrat who supports the resolution.

Same-sex marriage has split isle Democrats, Heen acknowledges, just as abortion fractured the Hawaii Republican Party 10 years ago when it was taken over by supporters of Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson.

"The neutral position of the party was intended to stave off the possibility of same-sex marriage having the effect that abortion had on the (Hawaii) Republican Party," Heen says.

But, Heen concedes, when the party's voter survey lists are rented to the no-vote coalition, which paid $195.09, and when no-vote materials are allowed in party headquarters, such actions can create the impression that the Democratic Party has a stand on the proposed amendment.

Party members are allowed to rent party voter rolls and to place campaign materials in the party office, Heen explains.

The state Republican Party has not displayed at its office any material -- pro or con -- on the same-sex marriage issue nor has the no-vote coalition asked to rent the Republican Party's voter surveys.

"I think that it is significant that the no-vote coalition overlaps with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party," says Jesse Yescalis, state GOP Party executive director. He believes that most Republicans and Democrats have a traditional definition of marriage.

The anti-gay marriage amendment could be a key factor in close races where candidates are on opposite sides of the issue, say veteran Democratic and Republican hands. Such a race, says Yescalis, could be the Windward state House election between Democratic attorney Iris Ikeda Catalani, who is against limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, and Republican attorney Charles Kong Djou, who supports the amendment.

While the overwhelming majority of Democratic candidates, including Gov. Ben Cayetano, say they will be voting "yes" to give the Legislature the authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, Protect Our Constitution and the Human Rights Campaign are appealing to core isle Democratic Party constituencies -- Japanese-Americans and labor -- to galvanize the "no" vote.

Newspaper advertisements harken back to World War II and even use the word "Jap" to equate the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans with passage of the anti-gay marriage amendment. A flier tells "working men and women they have long struggled against discrimination" and that if the proposed amendment passes, union busting will be next.

Before the primary, opponents of same-sex marriage wondered where Cayetano stood on the issue, even though the Star-Bulletin reported that he would be voting in favor of traditional marriage. There was puzzlement because Cayetano's campaign co-chairman, Senate Co-Majority Leader Mike McCartney, and Cayetano's close friend, attorney Colbert Matsumoto, were appearing in broadcast and print ads urging a "no" vote.

"I don't tell people what to do, particularly on an issue like this," says Cayetano, whose running mate, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, says she'll be voting "no."

Cayetano's personnel director, James Takushi, is recommending a "yes" vote in TV spots that recently aired.

The outcome of the marriage ballot measure, says McCartney, "will be an indicator as to how open-minded Hawaii is."

Prominent members in the campaign of Republican gubernatorial nominee Linda Lingle haven't been featured in the marriage-amendment media wars, but one of them, University of Hawaii law professor and Bishop Estate critic Randy Roth, is a traditional marriage supporter.

Rosehill, who advises Save Traditional Marriage-'98, says the so-called "new Christian voters" who were recruited to vote for the ballot measure -- more than 2,000, not including those signed up at the new nondenominational Christian churches, such as New Hope -- appear to lean Republican and toward Lingle. Like Cayetano, Lingle says she will be voting "yes" to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The nomination of businessman and former state Sen. Stan Koki, a religious conservative, strengthens Lingle with much of this new voter base, Rosehill says.

Rosehill said many of her fellow Democrats made her feel like an outcast within her own party because of her opposition to gay marriage.

But, Rosehill says, "I don't think I've burned my bridges with the Democratic Party on this issue."

She notes that she played a major behind-the-scenes role in Vice President Al Gore's recent appearance in Hawaii to help the isle Democratic Party. Gore happens to be one of the Human Rights Campaign's most staunch supporters. He was the featured speaker at the gay rights organization's annual dinner shortly after he returned to Washington.

Gay rights group
tries to keep
dream alive

By Mike Yuen


The nation's largest gay-rights group is being urged by Hawaii activists and other organizations "to move in and do all that is needed" to defeat a ballot measure that could prohibit homosexual marriages, says Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

"We have developed an excellent field operation plan, an effective media campaign with the right messages, messengers and target audiences," Birch wrote, as she asked for "the most generous contribution" to keep "the remarkable dream of same-gender marriage" alive.

The target audiences include Democrats and political independents, said David Smith, the Human Rights Campaign's senior strategist, who's been in Hawaii since the end of the primary election. Smith declined to be more specific.

Linda Rosehill, strategist for the opposition Save Traditional Marriage-'98, was willing to disclose what her side's polling and focus groups generally revealed.

In addition to Democrats, women, people who are young and Japanese-American seniors who remember internment during World War II are more likely to be swayed by arguments to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment, Rosehill said.

The amendment would give the Legislature the authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

On the other hand, men are more firm than women in resistance to same-sex marriage, Rosehill said. People who are 45 and older and who attend church frequently are also voters more likely to support a traditional definition of marriage, she added.

Both sides have raised a substantial amount of money to get their messages across. The latest campaign spending reports show those who favor the amendment have raised $1.26 million, and groups opposed to the amendment have raised $1.15 million as of Oct. 18.

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