The Church in Hawaii – with the support of the Roman Catholic Church in the state – has taken legal action to support traditional marriage and prevent state sanctioning of homosexual and lesbian marriages.
The Church's action, taken Feb. 23, is a request to the Circuit Court of Hawaii for permission to intervene in opposition to an attempt by three same-gender couples seeking the right to have a legal marriage.A lawsuit, Baehr v. Lewin, was originally thrown out by the trial court. The couples appealed, and the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that state marriage law discriminates on the basis of sex unless there is a compelling state interest to deny marriage licenses to homosexual and lesbian couples. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Circuit Court to make that determination.
Under Hawaii law, an entity may intervene in a legal action by proving that it has substantial interests in the outcome of the case. The trial is expected to be held in September.
The action by the Church supports the state of Hawaii in seeking to preserve its law against homosexual and lesbian marriages. If state law is overturned on this matter, Hawaii would be the first state in the nation in which that happened.
Donald L. Hallstrom, regional representative in the Oahu Hawaii North Region, announced the Church's action at a news conference on the day the request was filed with the court. He was joined by the Rev. Marc R. Alexander, diocesan theologian for the Hawaii Catholic Conference; Napua Baker, spokeswoman for the Church in Hawaii; and James M. Sattler, the attorney who is representing the Church in the case.
"Our purpose and our intention is to be of help and assistance to the attorney general in defending the existing Hawaii law respecting marriage," attorney Sattler said, "and our papers are all designed to put forth the facts and the arguments as to why we should be allowed to become parties to the case on the same side as the state and to seek to uphold the existing law."
Elder Hallstrom said the news conference was not a forum "to attack homosexuals or lesbians."
"The position of the Church . . . on homosexuality is a matter of record. We are opposed to it on moral grounds. Nevertheless, the Church has not attempted to oppose basic civil rights for homosexuals or any other group. This is not our work nor our focus."
He said the Church believes in sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity after marriage, "and we believe marriage should be between a man and a woman only."
Elder Hallstrom said legalizing same-sex marriage goes far beyond basic rights for any individual or group.
"There are times when certain moral issues become so compelling that churches have a duty to make their feelings known," he added. "In rare cases, they may need to pursue their own constitutional rights to resist something they feel poses a serious threat to the moral fabric of society. We have reached such a situation in Hawaii."
The Church is resisting this major change in the law, he said, "because we feel it represents a threat to families, to our children, and to our way of life in Hawaii."
He affirmed that the action was taken in consultation with Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. "While this initiative is our own, we assure you that we have the approval and support of the Church . . . in the action we are taking."
The Rev. Alexander said the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii joins the LDS Church in opposing legalization of "homosexual marriages."
"The Catholic Church in Hawaii will pursue the same goal through other means," he added. In response to a question, he explained that the "other means" would be in the form of a petition to the court to allow the Catholic Church to participate in the case as amicus curiae or "friend of the court."
"We have consulted our lawyers, and we believe that this different but very complementary route will help the case and will help the state in upholding its position. We believe, therefore, that we're working very much in concert toward the same end as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
He said the Hawaii Catholic community numbers about 230,000 members and has consistently opposed same-sex marriage, although it extends pastoral love and care to homosexual persons.
"Catholics believe that the union of husband and wife, as intended by God, is a unique model for human relationships," he said. "Homosexual unions are, by their very nature, incomplete. They lack both the complementarity of the sexes and the possibility of cooperative, life-giving power. Because of the special character of the committed and enduring man-woman relationship and its important contribution to the well-being of our communities, society has acknowledged, supported and extended special benefits to this man-woman relationship through the institution of marriage. Homosexual unions should not be granted the same support and recognition because they cannot make the same contribution to society."
In response to a question, Elder Hallstrom said the LDS and Catholic churches, as the two largest churches in Hawaii, have united on this matter because of their common belief in the sanctity of traditional marriage.
Sister Baker, who serves as vice president for university advancement at BYU-Hawaii, said society suffers when the traditional, nurturing environment of a family is eroded.
"Simply put, we do not believe that there is any justification for dealing another blow to the family by legalizing something which is presently illegal in every state in the nation," she added.
She cited a poll by The Honolulu Advertiser and television station KHON-Channel 2 indicating that Hawaiians by 68 percent oppose same-sex marriages.
"The people recognize that the institution of marriage is based on a special relationship between men and women," she said. "We are urging the court to support Hawaii's families and not undermine them by radically redefining the institution of marriage. We need to protect the laws of Hawaii so they are respected and recognized by other states, all of which uphold the same standard of limiting legal marriage to unions between a man and a woman."
A single parent, Sister Baker said: "We . . . recognize and respect the growing number of single-parent families in Hawaii. They play a vital role in raising children. Our objection is to changing the basic definition of marriage in Hawaii and violating the traditional partnership of men and women. We believe this is a serious threat to our values, and it is morally wrong."