The Other 'M' Word

By Gallagher, John | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), June 23, 1998 | Go to article overview

The Other 'M' Word


Gallagher, John, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Whether you're in a monogamous relationships or not, you soon may be able to make it legal in Hawaii

Few heterosexuals would be willing to put their right to marry on a ballot for voter approval, but that's the prospect gay men and lesbians are facing in Hawaii. With the outcome in the courts looking bright, activists are now turning their attention to a proposal, going before the public for a vote this fall, to amend Hawaii's constitution to allow for the prohibition of same-sex unions.

"The historic court case is on the verge of making legal recognition of our relationships a reality," says David Smith, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington, D.C.-based gay lobbying group. "It's moved further and faster than anyone ever thought possible. It's imperative that this constitutional amendment not move forward."

Hawaii's courts have held that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the state's constitution, and the state's supreme court is expected to adhere to that position when it issues its final decision in the landmark case. Therefore, opponents of same-sex marriage have sought to remove the constitutional underpinning for that decision.

The proposed constitutional amendment would give the state legislature the power to reserve marriage for opposite-sex couples only (although it would not require the legislature to do so). It is on the ballot because of political jockeying that took place last year. Originally the state house of representatives had refused to put such an amendment before voters. However, after laborious negotiations a majority in the house voted for the amendment proposal as part of a package that includes a separate bill providing about 60 benefits--like medical coverage and hospital visitation rights--to "reciprocal beneficiaries," such as gay partners and other household members.

The campaign to defeat the ballot measure, which kicked into gear at the beginning of the year, is being run by two groups. …

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