Experts say Hawaii’s gay marriage bill worst at protecting religious freedom

Thousands of people turned out to rally against Senate Bill 1, which would legalize gay marriage. The rally was held October 28, 2013, on the opening day of the special session. The Senate passed the bill Wednesday and today, the House continues to hear testimony on the measure (photo by Mike Palcic)
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Thousands of people turned out to rally against Senate Bill 1, which would legalize gay marriage. The rally was held October 28, 2013, on the opening day of the special session (photo by Mike Palcic)

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU — A number of people on both sides of the gay marriage debate say the current draft of Senate Bill 1, which would legalize same-sex ceremonies, infringes on religious liberty.

Civil rights attorney Jim Hochberg, who as president of Hawaii Family Advocates is leading the coalition effort to let people vote on the issue, said if Hawaii passes this bill as written, the state will be “among the worst for protecting religious freedom.”


While SB1 protects religious clergy from liability for refusing to solemnize a same sex marriage, the legislation offers no exemption to non-clergy members, such as judges, Hochberg said.

SB1 also fails to protect religious organizations from liability if they decline requests to use their properties for same sex celebrations, Hochberg said, because to qualify for the protection, a church must “not make its facilities or grounds available to the general public for solemnization of any marriage celebration for a profit.”

“How will the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission determine whether the church qualifies? Will a financial audit of the church be necessary?” Hochberg asked. “The language is simply not clear. We do not know. It will ultimately be sorted out by the courts. And that leaves churches vulnerable and at risk.”

Wayne Cordeiro, head of New Hope Oahu, the largest church in the state with 42 branches in Hawaii and 138 around the world, said the lack of this protection in this bill is “unconstitutional” and “forces religious people to violate their own faith.”

People stood on line for hours to testify before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on the gay marriage bill. More than 400 people testified in person after 3,459 people sent testimony in advance and hundreds more submitted testimony after the deadline or in person (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

“We do not judge them (gay couples) for their lifestyles for that is their chosen decisions, but we do not agree with a law which mandates that we set aside our conscience in order advocate an immoral lifestyle and be forced, under penalty, to service their ceremonies,” Cordeiro said. “This is an easy and understandable compromise our governmental leaders should allow.”

Five noted law professors told Hawaii lawmakers this week they agree SB 1 will infringe on religious liberties, and the bill should be amended.

While the professors expressed support for same-sex marriage, they warned careless or overly aggressive drafting could create a whole new set of problems for the religious liberty of those believers who cannot conscientiously participate in implementing the new regime.

“The gain for human liberty will be severely compromised if same-sex couples now force religious dissenters to violate their conscience in the same way that those dissenters, when they had the power to do so, used to force same-sex couples to hide their sexuality,” the law professors wrote.

The professors said the challenge for any bill is to “equalize civil marriage while preserving religious control over religious marriage”, and they said SB 1 “has not yet accomplished the task.”

“A bill that addresses only solemnization would do less to protect religious liberty than any other state that has enacted same-sex marriage by legislation,” the professors wrote.

One of them, Douglas Laycock of theUniversity of Virginia, told Hawaii Reporter he doesn’t know that any one of the 14 states that have legalized gay marriages has ideal legislation, and there have been last-minute compromises, and last-minute drafting, sometimes with glitches, nearly everywhere.

Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee listens to testimony from supporters and opponents of gay marriage on October 28, 2013 before passing the bill out of committee to the full senate by a vote of 5-2 (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

However, he believes the best provision is in New Hampshire, because it protects religious organizations with respect to solemnizing, celebrating or promoting marriages when doing so would violate their religious tenets.

“This reaches services to the marriage after the wedding, such as marriage counseling and married student housing. Too many states have focused only on the wedding, which misses much of the problem,” said Laycock, who also teaches religious studies at UVA.

Hawaii already has a civil union law, passed in 2010.

As many as 12,000 people on three islands turned out Monday at a five-hour rally to protest the bill. The massive crowd that gathered at the Capitol in Honolulu  chanted and waved signs that said “Let the people decide,” and religious and political leaders spoke at the event.

The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee listened to testimony from supporters and opponents of gay marriage for 12 hours Monday before passing the bill out of committee to the full Senate by a vote of 5-2.  The early testimony count was running about 40 percent in support of legalization, and 60 percent in opposition, according to committee chairman Clayton Hee.

The bill is expected to easily pass the Senate on Wednesday, and go to the House on Thursday, where the judiciary and finance committees will hold a hearing.

Should the bill pass the House without changes, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called lawmakers into special session specifically for this purpose, will sign it into law.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at





  1. Gay marriage is the official, validating, authenticating, official stamp of government approval of homosexuality which normalizes it and shields it from scrutiny and disapproval. For such a lifestyle typified by a vast roll call of destructive pathologies and proclivities, it does warrant it's due stigmatization. It has been condemned by every major world religion. Prior to the sexual revolution, this conduct was illegal the world over – every country, save for Sweden (1938 decriminalized). This is very telling. This is not just some trivial detail. World history – and every religion – have employed wisdom and common sense regarding this lifestyle. Only after the sexual revolution – and almost exclusively through the rulings of activist judges, who rule from the bench thus bypassing the constitution, has homosexuality advanced toward legal normalcy and legitimacy.

    • wqqhy dont you check the american psyhchological or psychiatric association – gay is a normal variation on people

      your writings speak of the hate from groups like the FRC who now hate gays but are racist also

      BTW the supreme court ruled – dont like it go to Afhganistan where gays are murdered, you can join the people of 9-11 who have the same ideas as you

    • Stop your endless and unrelenting persecution of LGBT people, and the levels of depression, suicide, and drug use will decline dramatically. Constantly bombarding a group of youth with the message that something as fundamental as their ability to share love is a sick and disgusting perversion that will damn them to hell and needs to be suppressed or eliminated is EXTREMELY psychologically damaging and abusive. Many LGBT youth grow up in constant fear of being discovered and rejected by their family, their peers, and their religion.

      These so-called "activist judges" have simply done their job, applying constitutional law to protect the LGBT minority group from the religious majority. As you don't like their decisions, you demonize them.

      The bigotry and persecution in the name of religion is far more telling than anything else. Anti-gay religious adherents are distressed because their hatred of LGBT people is no longer socially acceptable and they are being looked at with increasing critical scorn for their bullying and cruelty. You are alienating the religious moderate and young people with your religious extremism and hypocrisy. It is no wonder that atheism is one of the fastest growing groups in the world.

      • "…and the levels of depression, suicide, and drug use will decline dramatically. .."
        WOW! US DRUG PROBLEM ID & SOLVED! SO National Geograpic's shows "Drugs Inc." & "Border Wars" are about LGBT's buying drugs from cartels? YOU GET THE NOBEL PRIZE!

        I'll nominate you for OBAMA's cabinet!
        Fix Obama's administration on foreign policy. He & his staff, whom he stated of; "I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together.

        End result is they have made USA the laughing stock of the world.

        BTW, your last sentence; ">>>It is no wonder that atheism is one of the fastest growing groups in the world. "
        ISLAM & jihad groups are the fastest……….and they will kill any non beliver or LGBT.
        There you have facts about "EXTREMELY psychologically damaging and abusive"…..and I'll agree with you & fight for you by your side.

  2. "Separation of church and state" is a foolish, made-up ideology. It's NOT in the Constitution.

    The supposed justification of this was John Adams misrepresented letter to the Danbury Baptists. John Adams himself attended regular church services – services held INSIDE the U.S. Capital Building at the time. So much for this notion of 'separation of church and state'.

    It has been almost exclusively through irresponsible, biased activist judges that have advanced homosexual legitimacy. Many of these judges were/are homosexuals themselves, displaying an extraordinary conflict of interest.

    • How poorly thought out are your "10 reasons" argument.

      This is supposedly a Christian argument, but where is Christ in the argument?

      A Christian Argument must be filtered through the Commandment to love your lord God with all your heart ,mind and Soul. And to love your neighbor as yourself.

      But The filter used in your argument is:

      "This is the most important reason. Whenever one violates the natural moral order established by God, one sins and offends God. " "Accordingly, anyone who professes to love God must be opposed to it."

      According to your argument anyone who professes to love God must oppose the marriage of anyone who sins!

      All are Sinners and therefore No one should enter into Marriage if they love God!

      Your argument was conceived out of pride, arrogance and greed, not of love.

  3. Wow. Clayton Hee thinks it was only 60-40 against the bill. I was there for 2 1/2 hours in that first hearing on 10/28/13. I denied the right to speak after following the requirments to do so. I heard about 150 people give their testimony. There was 1 pro same-gender marriage speaker and all the others supported traditional marriage and opposed SB1. If he's not lying, then he is counting each of the Governor's appointed officials who testified as 100 and private citizens as 1.

    • UPDATE; Hee thinks he deserves a promotion, counting each of the Governor's appointed officials who testified as 100 and private citizens as 1. So Nemo maybe a goverment official in disguise.
      "I am humbled by the support I've received from the people of Hawaii and I look forward to a spirited campaign that will allow us to take our message to the voters."

      Read more:

  4. I have been watching this all night. I have to tell you I keep hearing the word discrimination being subtly bantered by the sitting leaders.

    Okay Then I hope Hope they see they are about to open the door. polygamists will have to be released from jail. it can no longer be a moral issue after all it is love and they ARE A minority.

    2 women 1 man and visa versa two men two women. it is love and the are a MINORITY be prepared for the sickest world you could ever imagine

    • So, you're saying the original Morman's were the sickest bunch, because they had more than a single partner. You didn't really mean you pick on them, did you? They would have continued the practice if it that were not threatened with losing their no tax status. But surely you meant something else when you suggested that polygamy was the sickest thing to happen to society.

  5. Hochberg is NO "expert".

    He's the PAID head of an anti-equality group.

    IOW, he gets paid to promote inequality. That does NOT make him an "expert" in legal justice. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Shame on the HR for elevating a man who makes his living lying about God's LGBTQ children to an "expert".

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