Op-Ed: Hawaii civil unions bill must be voted on

As written by the Rev. Elizabeth A. Zivanov in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

"One of the easier ways for legislators who are up for re-election to protect their seats is to prevent controversial bills from coming to the floor. That is exactly what is happening to House Bill 444, the bill concerning civil unions that passed in the Senate and was subsequently derailed by Calvin Say and other scared and anonymous legislators in the House.

"But there is still time for legislators to take their courage in their hands and right this wrong. They can still stand up and insist that the democratic process not be blocked by those who may fear losing their seats if an actual vote were to take place. Rather, they might worry about losing their seats if a vote does NOT take place.

..."Some say the people of Hawaii have spoken against unions of same-sex couples, referring to a referendum held 12 years ago. There are two major problems with this argument. First, the people of Hawaii in 2010 are a half-generation away from the people of Hawaii in 1998. People change, knowledge increases, and we hope that we become less willing to treat as less than human those who are different from us. Second, issues of justice are not issues upon which the majority rules. If that were the case, there would still be discrimination against people of color, there would still be prohibitions against mixed marriages, and women would still be prevented from full participation in our society. Although some might wish those prohibitions were still enforced, a society that claims to be just and to promote equality must be courageous enough to give voice to those who have been marginalized by the majority.

"This is not a religious issue, as some try to make it. As a Christian and an Episcopal priest, I do not support the stand of those religious groups who are attempting to legislate their beliefs. They do not represent all people of faith, and they do not have the right to force their beliefs on others any more than I have the right to force my beliefs on them.

"The bill does not force anyone to be directly involved in unions of same-sex couples. This is clearly a civil issue that ensures a just distribution of rights to couples of the same sex as those for couples of opposite sexes. Religious groups -- no matter how powerful -- do not have the right to control and derail issues of civil rights and justice.

"This is not an issue of "protecting" marriage. Those who want to protect the institution of marriage would be more effective and honest if they dealt with divorce rates and the prevention of domestic violence by those men who still see women as property to be controlled and abused. Those are the issues that truly threaten the traditional institution of marriage.

"HB 444 must be brought to the floor of the House in this last week of the current legislative session. Justice deferred is, indeed, justice denied. There can be no legitimate reason or excuse to justify blocking a vote on this bill in this session. To not support bringing HB 444 to a vote in this session is to demonstrate an incredible lack of courage and integrity on the part of legislators who claim to support what is right and just for all people and families in the state of Hawaii."


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