MARRY.HA

GAY MARRIAGE KEY ISSUE IN HAWAII ELECTION

By Andy McInerny

The struggle to win marriage rights for same-sex couples is
moving forward in Hawaii.

Last year the Hawaii Supreme Court served notice that it would
dump the ban on same-sex marriage unless the state can
demonstrate a "compelling interest" in discrimination.

The Hawaii attorney general will argue for the ban before the
Supreme Court makes its decision in April 1995. The state
legislature's move earlier this year to bar same-sex unions has
not stopped the court case from proceeding.

The struggle for gay marriage has actually become a major issue
in the Hawaii gubernatorial race. Forty-three percent of the
state's registered voters say the candidates' positions on
same-sex marriage will be the decisive factor in how they'll
vote.

There is such strong sentiment in favor of gay and lesbian
equality in Hawaii that candidates in the Democratic Party
primary are falling over each other to go on record as its
strongest champions.

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where white people are a
minority. The indigenous Hawaiian culture still has a powerful
influence--which leaves no room for homophobia.

The court case reflects this. Most of the plaintiffs seeking the
right to marry someone of the same sex are Native.

The issue has become a major embarrassment to one of the
Democratic candidates.

Jack Lewin was head of the State Department of Health--
the agency that denied marriage licenses to the couples who then
sued the state. So he is the named defendant in the case, Baehr
vs. Lewin.

Now that he's running for governor, he's released an open letter
"to give notice to the gay and lesbian community" that he is "not
opposed to gay/lesbian unions."

Lewin's opponent, Lt. Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, says marriage law
should be the same for opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Of course, the struggle for gay and lesbian rights in Hawaii is
far from over. And the right wing will do everything possible to
block a victory on the marriage question. But the fact that the
issue is now on the front burner is an impressive marker of
social progress.

MEANWHILE IN UTAH

An Aug. 17 mass protest in Salt Lake City united gay-rights,
anti-racist and women's groups in a protest against government
complicity in anti-gay violence.

Last year David Thacker hunted down Douglas Koehler and shot him
in the head because he was gay.

Utah prosecutors let Thacker plead guilty to second-degree
manslaughter instead of murder. But in mid-August District Judge
David Young sentenced Thacker to no more than six years in
prison, the maximum term for third-degree manslaughter.

The National Organization for Women had recently criticized the
judge for his racist and sexist rulings. At the Aug. 17 protest
at the State Capitol, NOW-Utah spokeswoman Luci Malin said, "I
guess he's not only a sexist and racist, but he's a homophobe as
well." [What did you expect from a Mormon? -CJ]

Gay activist David Nelson said: "What Judge Young has said is
that it's okay to kill [gays]. This is beyond insult."

Protesters called for removing Young from the bench.


                               -30-

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted
if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World,
55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: [email protected])