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Religious leaders in Hawaii call for passage of marriage equality bill

Religious leaders in Hawaii call for passage of marriage equality bill

HONOLULU — More than two dozen Hawaii faith leaders of various religions signed a resolution Monday calling the state to pass a law legalizing gay marriage.

Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist and other leaders read and signed the poster-sized declaration at an interfaith brunch at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii)

“It’s all about standing on the right side of history,” said Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kupono Kwong of the First Unitarian Church.

Kwong said the groups would continue to press on the issue until more people are in favor of gay marriage.

“We will keep doing it until we’re all prayed out,” Kwong said.

The resolution asks Hawaii lawmakers to extend civil marriage benefits to same-sex couples. Hawaii currently has a civil unions law, but some say it doesn’t go far enough in fully recognizing couples as married.

The church leaders say civil recognition of the relationships is a matter of fairness.

The gathering, organized by Hawaii United for Marriage, comes one day after Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that it’s very likely there will be a special session to take up the issue.

Abercrombie told the newspaper that he’s more concerned that any bill is legally sound than about timing. The Legislature begins its normal session in January.

Rep. Chris Lee, a Hawaii House member who has been pushing for a gay marriage law, said conversation among lawmakers has been swayed by changes in public perception and two Supreme Court rulings viewed as victories by gay marriage advocates. He said a special session would allow a gay marriage law to pass with less influence from groups outside Hawaii who want to push on the issue.

“There is no reason to wait for justice and equality,” he said.

Rep. Della Belatti, a House lawmaker who teared up while addressing leaders at the brunch, said lawmakers and others are changing how they discuss gay marriage as more issues arise by not allowing same-sex couples the same benefits as other married couples.

“People recognize that there are civil benefits that are connected to marriage that we’re excluding people from,” Belatti said.

The signing did not include leaders from religious groups that have opposed gay marriage in Hawaii in the past. Hawaii Family Forum, which represents Christian churches of various denominations, as well as the Hawaii Catholic Conference, submitted testimony earlier this year against a bill that would have created a task force to study the social and economic impacts of gay marriage in the state.

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