Hawaii governor consults with rabbis on civil unions

Reported by Herbert A. Sample for The Associated Press and posted on washingtonpost.com:

"Rabbis Itchel Krasnjansky and Peter Schaktman hail from different branches of Judaism and hold starkly contrasting views on whether same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions in Hawaii.

"What they have in common is the ear of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has until June 21 to announce whether she may veto the only pending civil unions legislation in the nation.

"Lingle, in the final months of her second and last term, faces a momentous decision that carries political and legal implications. For the rabbis, with whom the governor has consulted on the issue, her choice is about much more.

"Krasnjansky, who heads the Orthodox community group Chabad of Hawaii, said the Torah teaches that homosexuality, and by extension marriage equality, 'is not something that should be condoned or should be legalized,' he said.

"But Schaktman, who leads the Reform Temple Emanu-El, insists Judaism teaches that all people regardless of sexual orientation are and should be treated as 'children of God,' and thus should not face discrimination.

"'Civil unions are a legal arrangement,' he said. 'Therefore, anyone who uses religion to oppose civil unions is purely using religion to further homophobia.'

... "The debate between Krasnjansky and Schaktman mirrors that of Hawaii's Christians. Catholic, evangelical and conservative pastors have waged a months-long effort to prod the Legislature and now Lingle to block the measure, HB 444. Mainline Protestant and more liberal preachers have worked to get the bill signed.

"The bill would allow gay and straight couples to establish government-recognized relationships with the same legal rights and responsibilities as married couples.

... "Schaktman, who noted that Lingle attends Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at his temple, said he shied from using his view of Judaism's teachings to advocate for civil unions.

"Rather, he stressed that civil unions would not impact any religion, nor would it validate homosexuality.

"It is up to Krasnjansky and like-minded religious leaders to oppose homosexuality, Schaktman contended. 'That's not Gov. Lingle's job, and they have no right to expect her or the state to promulgate their morality,' he added.

"In his last conversation with the governor, Schaktman said he encouraged her 'to not do necessarily the expedient thing (but) to really search her conscience to do what is right.'"

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