Since the 2012 elections, the number of states sanctioning same-sex marriage has doubled, but in the rush to appease some outspoken and politically-connected citizens, are the religious liberties of others being trampled?
That's the worry in Hawaii, where the State Senate recently voted 20-4 to legalize same-sex "marriage," repealing a constitutional amendment passed by popular vote in 1998 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Governor Neil Abercrombie called the vote in a special session, hoping to make Hawaii the 15th state to participate in this social experiment. Governor Abercrombie has already signed a law recognizing civil unions between same-sex couples, which took effect in early 2012, and grants the same rights and benefits as marriage in the state.
But as many are beginning to realize, this movement to alter marriage is not about rights or benefits. It goes beyond the marketing of "equality." It is not even about marriage, not really.
The end-game is to oblige the state – and its citizens – to condone the homosexual lifestyle.
This compulsion poses a direct and undeniable threat to religious liberty. Hawaii's State House is expected to pass the bill as soon as this week, but first it is holding public hearings, where at least one thousand people are expected to testify to their concerns about the bill, specifically, the way it infringes on the conscience and constitutional rights of Hawaii's citizens.
While the bill purportedly protects clergy members from being forced to officiate weddings between same-sex partners, judges and magistrates – who share the same religious objections – are not extended the same courtesy.
Many churches in Hawaii, like other churches all over the country, are available to rent for weddings by non-members. This use of facilities is both a service to the community and a way for churches to support their worship and work. But as the bill is worded, if a church profits in any way from renting its property for weddings, it is not shielded from liability if a same-sex couple wants to use the facility. They are subject to punishment from the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.
This same concern would apply to anyone else who happens to provide a wedding-related service or product in Hawaii. Christian wedding-planners, photographers, gown-makers, cake-bakers, invitation printers, and the like, would face an untenable choice: either run the risk of criminal penalty for declining to participate in a same-sex marriage or violate your conscience.
Politicians relish the idea of making history. They want to leave their mark. But, some marks form a stain.
There is no groundswell among the citizenry in the Aloha State to change the way they have traditionally viewed marriage. Polls show Hawaiians are virtually split on the issue. Conversely, the downside of passage is dramatic. Aside from betraying a popular vote, the measure strips the people of a fundamental liberty: the freedom of conscience.
Given the opportunity to speak up in the political process – as this bill matriculates through the requisite channels to become law – many Hawaiians are voicing their concerns about the ramifications of the ill-advised legislation.
Hawaii's elected leaders would do well to listen.