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Hawaii Senate Approves Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 30th, 2013

The Hawaii state Senate has approved the marriage equality bill. The approval came on a 20-4 vote. The Senate’s lone Republican member — yes, there is just one Republican in the Hawaii Senate, making him the Minority Leader by default — joined three Democrats to oppose the bill. The marriage equality bill now goes to the House, where the bill is expected to encounter a rougher time despite a commanding 44-7 Democratic advantage. Already, it appears that the House is likely to amend the Senate bill to expand special religious exemptions, including a possible special exception to allow for-profit businesses to discriminate against gay couples. The House Judiciary and Finance Committees will hold a joint hearing tomorrow, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Depending on how many people sign up to testify, the hearings mights spill onto Friday.

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Lindoro Almaviva
October 30th, 2013 | LINK

Already, it appears that the House is likely to amend the Senate bill to expand special religious exemptions, including a possible special exception to allow for-profit businesses to discriminate against gay couples.

really? And how is that going to fly on the face of the XIVth amendment?

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I would love to know how are they going to bypass that.

Ben in Oakland
October 30th, 2013 | LINK

Even moretothe point. I’m wondering when our side is going to start pointing out that these exceptions, apart from churches, are violations of religious non-discrimination laws, which we have in us country at every level of government.

Personally, on another level, I don’t really care. Not because it think its right, but Becuase I think these religious exception laws will fall oftheir own weight. Those that wish to discriminate are goingto have to deal with the negative fallout of that on their businesses.

That negative impact is not guaranteed, but I think it will be there. That’s what yelp is for.

Mark F.
October 30th, 2013 | LINK

The 14th Amendment has not been interpreted to mean that sexual orientation has to be covered by non-discrimination laws. In any case, I agree with Ben. Let people discriminate if they wish.

Timothy Kincaid
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Ben,

In an age of instant communication, I think you are right.

It isn’t the lawsuits that are bringing down the cake-bakers, it’s public opinion.

Betty Osgaard of the Iowa Bistro and art place said “Can I have my beliefs without being ostracized for that?” And the answer was obviously, “no”.

Timothy Kincaid
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

And you have to love that the Hawaii Senate meeting room has a giant disco ball.

Sandhorse
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Ben has got it 100 percent right.

Given time most of these ‘religious exemptions’ will translate to ‘business bankruptcies’. In instances where this is not the case, it will translate to ’changes in religious convictions’ (a.k.a. changes in business policies).

If the GLBT community were smart, they would support these exemptions quite vocally, and be equally vocal in listing the companies who take them.

This, IMHO, would offer a multifaceted benefit.

It would steer us clear of accusations that we are ‘anti-God’. “Yes, we support your religious convictions!”

A well advertised database listing both anti-gay…er…anti-equality…doh!…’religiously convicted’ establishments and ‘open’ establishments will give the LGBT and Allied communities choices. And, of course, help the ’religiously convicted’ shops by keeping the heathens away.

And the best part:

Once the ‘religious exemptions’ reach their final stupidity, particularly the secondary option; we can be there to ask them, “So what changed you mind?”

Do I hear a new reality show?

Nathaniel
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

According to HuffPo, HI churches make big profit from the fact that their state is a marriage destination for people from both sides of the Pacific. According to the writer, such services are classified as public accommodation, putting them into categories that would have to choose between ‘conviction’ (i.e. discrimination) and shutting down their cash cow. It might be that these church-housed businesses have sufficient sway to get exemptions added to the law. It is certainly true that they sit in a confusing grey zone of religious freedom v. public duty, making them the ideal example of why such exemptions are necessary. That said, any significant changes will have to be run back by the Senate, allowing them to be mitigated to some degree.

Jim Burroway
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Nathan,

Those exemptions you describe are already in the bill passed by the Senate. The move in the House appears to be to expand those expemptions to all businesses.

Priya Lynn
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

“It is certainly true that they sit in a confusing grey zone of religious freedom v. public duty, making them the ideal example of why such exemptions are necessary.”.

There is no case to be made that such exemptions are necessary. It cannot in any real way be considered an imposition on a person to carry out the same business they’ve done hundreds or thousands of times before once more for a gay person/couple.

To Paraphrase Justice Jean Anne Smith:
“These anti-gay business owners are not themselves compelled to engage in a same sex marriage they consider objectionable. Their objection is that it is sinful for others to engage in such activity,”
“It is therefore arguable that the interference with the right of business owners to act in accordance with their religious belief … is trivial or insubstantial, in that it is interference that does not threaten actual religious beliefs or conduct.”

Priya Lynn
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

On what basis does a person deserve an exemption to a law because they have a relgious objection but a person with a non-religious objection does not?

There is no coherent rational for granting the right to discriminate if the desire to do so is based on religion but not if the desire to discriminate is for secular reasons.

Priya Lynn
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Sandhorse said “Given time most of these ‘religious exemptions’ will translate to ‘business bankruptcies’. In instances where this is not the case, it will translate to ’changes in religious convictions’ (a.k.a. changes in business policies).”.

Oh, B.S. If that was such a certainty it would have happened with Jim Crow in the south – but it didn’t.

Ben In Oakland
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Thanks for the quote, Priya. :)

Priya Lynn
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Thanks for providing it to me, Ben.

Ben In Oakland
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

:)

Sandhorse
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Hello again Priya,

Yes, I did say that. And while I was mostly speaking in jest to echo Ben’s statement, I’d say it again. Just because something happened one way in the past, doesn’t mean it would happen the same way in the future.

We’re a different society now, and we are ever changing. Law or no law, a ‘Whites Only’ sign (strictly enforced) wouldn’t last nearly as long as it did even 60 years ago, much less 150 years ago.

Look how increasingly difficult it’s becoming for an NFL team to keep the name it has used for over 80 years.

Would it happen overnight? I doubt it. Would I bet my life on it? Perhaps not. But I would side with the power of public opinion, properly channeled, any day.

Priya Lynn
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Sandhorse, I don’t have a problem with you saying the future may not happen as the past did but the way you originally phrased it (and many others do) is that the past cannot repeat itself, that its impossible for a person to be discriminated against in such a way that its a big problem for them – that of course is a lie.

The free market will never solve all ills, it will always fall short in some areas and we’ll need government regulations and laws to set things right. People who advocate for allowing discrimination seem to think everyone lives in a big city and it can never be an inconvenience for a discrimination victim to get service elsewhere which is utterly ridiculous.

There’s no equating the imposition on a discriminated against person with a religious person not having the right to discriminate. The religious person not having the right to discriminate is not in anyway a victim and can in no sense be said to have a need for the right to discriminate.

Ryan
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

I agree with Priya Lynn. The notion that hanging a “straights only” sign on your place of business should be legal is abominable. The idea every business who does this will be crushed under the weight of public opinion is naive at best and flat-out disengenous at worst. It also has nothing at all to do with legalizing marriage equality. They are two separate issues entirely. One issue is “should gay couples be allowed to get married?” the other is “should businesses be allowed to refuse to serve gay people?”.
Shocking and disappointing how many even here on this site say “yes” to the latter.

Ryan
October 31st, 2013 | LINK

Mark F, you’re right that the 14 Amendment has never been ruled to apply to gay people, but Hawaii does have non-discrimination laws on the books. (Which again, has nothing at all to do with gay marriage).
Apparently the Hawaii House is going to attempt to give religious people special rights to ignore the law and hang up that “No Homo” sign.

Sandhorse
November 1st, 2013 | LINK

Priya, if you like I can run everything I post by you to make sure it is phrased ‘just right’. But you are correct, history more often repeats itself. If we were to rescind slavery laws, I think, given enough time(say a few centuries), slavery could/would rear its ugly head again. But I think we would have to be an entirely different civilization by that point.

I think, as a whole, humanity knows how to dispense justice to all. Slavery in ancient times was common; this did not necessarily make slave owners evil. In our present day it is easier to make judgments on our ancestors. However, in that time and space it was considered normal, proper, and perfectly justifiable.

But after time, slavery was seen to be unjust. After more time, we memorialized this reasoning within our laws. But those laws did not manifest in a vacuum, it was a changing (maturing) humanity that implemented them.

What I mean say is, barring some cataclysmic event, humanity as a whole tends to move forward, not backwards. That’s not to say there aren’t some that want to take us backwards, but theirs is an uphill battle, and they’re not being very successful.

I think bakery, photography, and venue establishments are somewhat different. They offer ‘elective merchandise’, by that I mean, it’s not like housing or medical needs. Granted, it’s wrong for anyone to be denied service just because they are gay. But from my standpoint I would rather have no cake at all, then to have someone who hates me make it. And if they have THAT much of an issue about it, I want to know up front, because I DON’T want to give them my money. I also understand not everyone feels that way.

Might I also say that if my amiable reaction to laws upholding discrimination leads people like Ryan to believe I support such laws and think they are good for this country; then they are proving those asking for such laws right.

I only support these laws for the ways that we could take advantage of them. For me, I see a short term inconvenience with the potential of a long term benefit as not the end of the world. That doesn’t mean my rational is correct, but it doesn’t make it wrong either. It’s just a different approach.

Regan DuCasse
November 1st, 2013 | LINK

Even a religious exemption won’t make any sense for a religious institution if they aren’t consistent themselves.
Let’s start with heterosexuals are presumed to be marrying someone of their same orientation.
So are gay people.
Everyone is doing the same things, under the same requirements, with the same intents and purposes.
Even with the Catholic Churches, if they have refused to perform rites for the divorced, or if there are their versions of divorce, and remarriage, then that applies for heterosexuals as well as gay couples too.
But we know there are gay friendly PROTESTANT churches and temples anyway so that’s not usually an issue.
It’s these PUBLIC businesses that are trying to get away with discrimination that are testing the civil laws that aren’t doing any of this for religious reasons because they are EXCLUSIVELY discriminating against gay people and no one else.
Just like the laws of marriage itself, their defense would have to be EQUALLY discriminatory, or EQUALLY accommodating.
They can’t be selective and secret and keeping the public uninformed about it.

Nathaniel
November 1st, 2013 | LINK

Thanks for the info, Jim. It’s not really surprising that those exemptions were already there, nor would I be surprised if they were used as a backdoor for expanded exemptions.

PL, I agree whole-heartedly that anti-gay discrimination is bad, no matter what the reason, and I really like your/Ben’s quote since it clearly defines the true nature of the issue. However, when we talk about stopping discrimination, most people (myself included) get squeamish when considering litigating church teaching. It is easy to see the distinction between directing who private businesses cannot turn away as customers and employees v. churches limiting who can marry, join as members, and serve as leaders and clergy. My point was merely that these church businesses lie somewhere in between for most people, and so are an easy, emotion-inducing tool to serve the purposes of pro-discrimination forces; a visible wedge that can be used to expand special rights to discriminate. However else you and I may see it, it is the general public and legislators that must be convinced that being religious and religiously affiliated should not earn one carte blanche to treat people publicly however one wishes.

Ryan
November 1st, 2013 | LINK

I don’t know what a “church-business” is, and how it differs from a presumably non-church business.

Steve
November 2nd, 2013 | LINK

Hawaii already had a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is already illegal.

And no. Businesses that discriminate won’t automatically go out of business. Especially when they are located in primitive, religious communities. Why is that theocrats and naive US-Libertarians never learn from history? The vaunted free market didn’t work in the South and it won’t work here.

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