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Honor civil unions of gay couples


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POSTED: Sunday, February 08, 2009

Gay marriages have been banned in Hawaii since nearly 70 percent of voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 1998 that validated the Legislature's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Legislators now should give homosexual couples rights equal to those of traditional opposite-sex marriages without including them in the definition of “;marriage”; by recognizing civil unions.

“;Like it or not ... customs change with an evolving social order,”; Justice Steven Levinson noted in the 1993 state Supreme Court decision that gay and heterosexual marriages are parallel, which prompted the ballot measure. Since then, Massachusetts and Connecticut have legalized same-sex marriages, and civil unions have been recognized in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont.

Hawaii is among four states and the District of Columbia that have extended spousal rights to gay couples, such as family and bereavement leaves, probate rights and hospital visitation. Those benefits should be broadened to areas such as taxation and adoption while honoring the sanctity of “;marriage”; as between a man and a woman in tradition and religious beliefs.

More than 3,200 same-sex couples in Hawaii were willing in the most recent census survey to disclose their partnerships, but that probably is an underestimate of the coupled relationships among the 42,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the islands.

Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona calls the civil-union measure “;nothing more than a same-sex marriage bill under a different name.”; Aiona and other opponents will have to come up with more than an argument beyond semantics to justify denying civil rights to a group of law-abiding Hawaii residents.