Saturday, April 24, 1999

Vermont hears
from isles
on same-sex

Ten Hawaii legislators
urge voters in Vermont
to oppose gay marriages

By Mike Yuen


Ten isle legislators have joined same-sex marriage foe Mike Gabbard in urging Vermont to reject same-gender marriages, just as Hawaii voters did.

But their open letter, which was mailed statewide a few days ago, has offended some Vermont residents. It spurred two of Vermont's highest-ranking Democrats, Lt. Gov. Doug Racine and House Speaker Michael Obuchowski, to declare that they believe homosexuals should have the right to marry.

And it caused Susan Murray, an attorney representing three gay couples whose same-sex marriage lawsuit is now before the Vermont Supreme Court, to lash out at the isle lawmakers.

"Hawaiians are entitled to their own views on this issue," she said. "But I don't think it's appropriate for Hawaiians to tell voters about what to do or how to think about this issue."

In interviews yesterday, six of the 10 Hawaii lawmakers said they were not trying to impose their views on Vermont.

"We're not telling them what to do," said Rep. Mark Moses (R, Kapolei). "They have the right to do what they want to do. But it would not hurt to know what happened here."

Rep. Dennis Arakaki (D, Kalihi Valley) added: "I just looked at it as advice rather than telling them what to do."

Rep. Michael Kahikina (D, Nanakuli) said when the Hawaii Legislature was debating same-sex marriage, he and his colleagues were lobbied by letter, facsimile and telephone by people from all across the nation.

"Why is it when we do it, it is all of a sudden an intrusion?" he asked. "This is my free speech."

Just as the way Hawaii handled same-sex marriage had national implications so, too, does Vermont's situation, said Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Moanalua).

Honolulu civil-rights attorney Dan Foley, who represents the three gay couples who sued the state for the right to marry, has said if the Vermont high court legalizes same-sex marriage, he will urge local homosexual couples to get married there. Once they return to the isles, they would demand recognition of their marriages under a U.S. constitutional provision requiring states to recognize each other's statutes and legal bonds, Foley said.

The other lawmakers who signed the two-page flier were Sens. Jan Yagi Buen (D, Waihee), Jonathan Chun (D, Lihue), David Matsuura (D, Hilo) and Sam Slom (R, Kalama Valley) and Reps. Bob McDermott (R, Foster Village) and Colleen Meyer (R, Kahaluu).

Gabbard, who heads the Alliance for Traditional Marriage-Hawaii and Stop Promoting Homosexuality International, asked the lawmakers to add their names to the "open letter from Hawaii's citizens to Vermont's citizens."

The letter was sent to every Vermont registered voter. The mailing cost $40,000 to $45,000, which was paid by a Vermont businessman and co-sponsored by Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, Ohio, Gabbard said.

Alluding to last year's overwhelming vote for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage here, the letter states: "In Hawaii, we did not think that a handful of judges should override the will of the people and the religious traditions and cultural values that have stood the test of time for thousands of years. In Vermont, you are now facing the same scenario."

The letter also warns that proponents of same-sex marriage will brand their critics as "homophobic" and "hate-filled bigots."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Same-sex issue
cost $3.1 million

The 1998 election debate
accounted for a third of
special-interest spending

By Mike Yuen


Proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage accounted for nearly 37 percent of the special interest money in last year's state elections, spending more than $3.11 million, according to the state Campaign Spending Commission.

Labor was a distant second, accounting for nearly 16 percent, with more than $1.5 million spent.

And while advocates of gay marriages failed to defeat a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions, getting only 30 percent of the vote, they were the top spenders on the marriage issue.

They received the largest individual campaign contribution -- $300,000 from Tom Gill of Denver, the chief executive officer of Quark Inc., who made the donation to the political action committee affiliated with the nation's largest gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C.

Brian Nakamura, Campaign Spending Commission general counsel, said yesterday he can't recall any individual contribution that was higher in isle electoral history.

Protect Our Constitution/Human Rights Campaign spent nearly $1.41 million. Its isle affiliate, Protect Our Constitution, spent nearly $182,000.

Their combined total of nearly $1.59 million is $62,000 more than what was spent by "traditional marriage" political action committees.

The largest, Save Traditional Marriage, spent nearly $1.31 million. It received $600,000 from the Mormon Church and $5,000 from the Roman Catholic Church of Hawaii.

Protect Our Constitution/Human Rights Campaign also received contributions from religious organizations, but they were minuscule compared to what Save Traditional Marriage got. For example, synagogues in Westport, Conn., and Los Angeles gave $360 and $150, respectively.

Same-sex marriage:
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