Thousands Rally Against Gay Civil Unions in Hawaii

Thousands crowded the Hawaii State Capitol on Sunday to rally against a bill that would legalize same-sex civil unions in the state.

The rally comes ahead of Tuesday's Senate committee hearing on the bill. The Hawaii House earlier this month approved House Bill 444, in a 34 to 17 vote.

Members of churches from across the state attended the rally, citing Scripture as reason for their moral opposition to same-sex unions.

"We don't want gay marriage or lesbians as according to the scripture of God. God made man and woman to be husband and wife, not man and man and woman and woman," Jonathan Dana, a rally participant, told KGMB9 News.

Protesters held signs reading "We affirm traditional marriage" and "No to same sex marriage" while cars driving by honked in support, the Associated Press reported.

Dennis Arakaki, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, which organized the rally, led demonstrators in silent prayer.

"We are here in the spirit of love, compassion, and grace," Arakaki said, according to AP. "But we are also here armed with the sword of truth."

Supporters of civil unions will rally on Monday. It will be led by the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, which includes representatives from Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faiths.

The proposed bill would give same-sex partners who enter into civil unions the same rights, benefits and responsibilities under state law as married couples. It would also recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages performed in other states as civil unions in Hawaii.

Supporters of traditional marriage say the measure undermines the institution of marriage and the will of the Hawaii people, who in 1998 voted 70 to 30 percent to affirm marriage as being between a man and a woman.

A digital flyer from Hawaii Family Forum announcing the Sunday rally called gay civil unions "same-sex marriage by another name."

The issue has prompted a strong response from opponents of the measure.

Since the bill passed the House, religious groups have bought newspaper and radio advertisements, set up Web sites against the measure, and asked supporters to urge lawmakers to vote against the measure.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Robert Bunda, who was the potential swing vote on the issue, said his office has received dozens of telephone calls and more than 1,400 e-mails, with the majority urging him to vote against the bill, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

Bishop Larry Silva of the Hawaii diocese of the Catholic Church also wrote a letter to Bunda, urging him to oppose the measure.

"Accepting civil unions as an indication of equality may lead others to seek the same 'equality.' Will polygamists be next to demand 'equality'? Others whose values will continue to erode the social fabric of our community?" Silva wrote in a letter published on the diocese's Web site.

Bunda said he plans to vote against the civil unions bill. He said he couldn't distinguish between civil unions and marriage since the bill would provide same-sex partners with the same rights as married couples under the law, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

The bill would die in the committee without Bunda's vote, but Senate leaders, who favor the bill, may attempt to circumvent the committee to bring the bill to the full Senate, the local paper reported.

If the measure is approved by the Senate, Hawaii would become the fifth state to allow civil unions, after Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and New Hampshire. Only two states — Massachusetts and Connecticut — allow same-sex marriage.

In May, the California Supreme Court overturned a state law prohibiting gay marriages. The Court is scheduled to hear challenges to a constitutional amendment passed by voters in November affirming traditional marriage.

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