WASHINGTON (BP)–The Hawaii House reacted against a seven-week-old state court ruling by overwhelmingly adopting a proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting homosexual marriages.
The Hawaii house of representatives voted 44-7, according to news accounts, in favor of the measure Jan. 23. If the state senate approves the amendment to the state constitution, its fate will be determined by voters in the November 1998 election.
The action followed an early December decision by Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang striking down Hawaii’s ban on same-sex marriages. Chang’s opinion opened the door for Hawaii to become the first state to legalize homosexual marriage. While Hawaii has appealed his ruling to the state supreme court, the justices are expected to uphold the lower court decision.
Hawaii voters narrowly approved in the November election a call for a constitutional convention to deal with same-sex marriage. The vote has been contested. Polls have shown more than 70 percent of Hawaiians oppose homosexual marriage.
“Both the action of the voters at the November election and the ease with which this proposed amendment passed the Hawaii house are yet further indications of how far afield the American judiciary has strayed from the will of the people,” said Jeff Carter, the Christian Life Commission’s director of citizenship concerns.
Chang’s favorable decision for same-sex marriage had been anticipated for many months and had caused Congress and some states to prepare.
By September, Congress had overwhelmingly passed and President Clinton had grudgingly signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which was designed to strengthen states’ authority to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages. Sixteen states have enacted legislation banning homosexual marriages. More state legislatures are expected to attempt such measures in 1997.
The concern of Congress and the states is that a legal same-sex marriage performed in Hawaii likely would have to be recognized by other states unless they are able to show they have a compelling interest opposing such unions.