Hawaiians Celebrate Marriage Equality, As Catholic Opposition Voice Shrinks

Hawaiians ponder passage of new marriage equality law.

This week, Hawaii became the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) in the US to legalize equal marriage rights. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the law a day after legislators approved it, and, as expected, Catholic officials condemned it. Hawaii now offers an interesting case study for Catholics seeking marriage equality.

Hawaiians were the first to pass an anti-equality constitutional amendment back in the 1990s, notes The Advocatebut the new law passed with wide margins of 19-4 in the state Senate and 30-19 in the state House. Amid debate in the Senate, a Catholic legislator spoke personally about her family and faith — and then topped it off with a reference to Pope Francis. Hawaii News Now reports:

“Senator Jill Tokuda stood in support of SB 1, and had other lawmakers in tears as she described her dream to dance at her sons’ weddings some day.

” ‘It got me thinking about all of the mothers and fathers out there who just want that moment with their child and who’ve suffered along side them with their rights denied.  Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?”  I ask, “Who am I to deny?” ‘ “

Less warm were statements made by Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, who wrote in defense of ‘just’ discrimination this September. National Catholic Reporter quotes him as calling marriage equality a “manufactured civil right,” but it seems for Hawaiians the bishop’s arguments in opposition proved decidedly false. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, head US bishops’ Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, also condemned Hawaii’s passage of marriage equality.

Of note, neither prelate focused on appealing the law’s passage in Hawaii. Cordileone used the USCCB’s annual meeting this week to discuss federal legislation protecting people opposed to marriage equality, but didn’t even mention Hawaii’s and Illinois’ recent  passage of marriage equality legislation. On Top Magazine reports:

“Cordileone advocated for passage of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act as a possible “remedy” to the court’s DOMA decision and passage in the Senate of ENDA…

“The legislation would bar the federal government from discriminating against individuals and businesses that ‘act upon their religiously motivated belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage.’ “

Elsewhere, Catholic opponents of marriage equality are now strategizing about how to respond to this inevitable trend, admitting that within two or three years more than half of US states should have equal marriage rights. When New Jersey passed marriage equality a few weeks back, Bondings 2.0 asked if that victory signaled an end to Catholic political opposition to LGBT rights.  With Hawaii and Illinois victories, it seems the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition is waning.
Hawaii, and soon Illinois, confirm two key things: the Catholic voice is increasingly one in favor of equality and the anti-equality leaders are less on stopping marriage laws and more on protecting their right to discriminate.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
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