Tuesday, November 3, 1998

Campaign '98

Battle over
same-sex unions
takes last-minute
twists, turns

New ads, voter guides issued
in churches and comments from
Sen. Inouye spice up the race

By Mike Yuen


OPPONENTS of the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage have vowed to file another complaint against the national Christian Coalition, this time for its voter guide that urges approval of the controversial amendment.

The attack on the coalition, which has not registered with the state Campaign Spending Commission, was one of several last-minute developments as isle residents headed to the polls today to decide whether to give the Legislature the authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The other developments:

bullet Proponents of the measure to outlaw same-sex marriage have split over how to advocate their position in the final hours, as Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, has taken a hard-hitting approach with TV spots that equate gay marriage with incest and bestiality.

The tactic adopted by Gabbard, who also sits on the steering committee of Save Traditional Marriage-'98, has upset other Save Traditional Marriage leaders who feel his strategy could cause their side to lose votes.

Jennifer Diesman, a spokeswoman for the group, which has sought to portray itself as the voice for Hawaii's "silent majority," said Gabbard's hard-line approach plays into the hands of their opponents, who have sought to paint all supporters of a "yes" vote as right-wing extremists.

bullet Protect Our Constitution, the "no"-vote coalition, has taken concerns by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye over the weekend -- that the Hawaii Constitution will have discriminatory language in it if the proposed amendment were to pass -- to mean that he is encouraging voters to reject the measure.

But that's not true, said Inouye's press secretary, Michele Konishi, who was with Inouye when he made his remarks to reporters.

"He's not telling people to vote one way or the other. If he was going to do that, you would have heard from our campaign," Konishi said.

Jackie Young, Protect Our Constitution's campaign director, said Inouye's sentiments will be a selling point when volunteers for her group telephone voters and urge them to reject the anti-gay marriage amendment.

MEANWHILE, Brian Nakamura, state Campaign Spending Commission general counsel, said it is probably unnecessary for "no"-vote advocates to file another complaint against the Christian Coalition of Chesapeake, Va. The earlier complaint by Protect Our Constitution and the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights organization, also centered on the Christian Coalition's refusal to register and disclose its financial activity to help pass the proposed ban on same-sex marriage, he said.

The Christian Coalition printed 200,000 voter guides for distribution in churches statewide Sunday, the last Sunday before the election. What the coalition did puts it in violation of state law, Nakamura said. "We're standing by the registration and disclosure requirement," he added.

Tommy Amarino, executive director of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, which he says has fewer than 500 members, declined to comment.

There was one survey question the coalition asked that critics found particularly ominous. It asked candidates if they supported or opposed legislation that would remove sexual orientation as a protected class in all laws. Support would mean rolling back the state's law against discrimination of gays in employment.

House Speaker Joe Souki and fellow Democratic Reps. Ezra Kanoho, David Stegmaier and Noboru Yonamine and Republican House candidates Denton Kissell and Mary Ann Miyashiro stated that while they approved of a constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage, they were opposed to removing sexual orientation as a protected class.

Young noted that while gays in Hawaii are protected against discrimination in employment, that protection doesn't extend to housing and public accommodations.

"This validates my fears that they're using sexual orientation as a wedge into the Bill of Rights," she added. The coalition's other survey questions -- a Biblical-oriented school curriculum and bans on late-term abortions and physician-assisted suicide also confirm that the coalition has a broader agenda beyond opposition to same-sex marriage, Young said.

Diesman of Save Traditional Marriage said while her group shares the Christian Coalition's position on gay marriage, they don't agree on other issues.

Same-sex marriage:
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