Mormon Church stakes out new position in Hawaii same-sex marriage debate
|Mormon Temple, Laie on Oahu, Hawaii|
HONOLULU -- As debate is scheduled to begin for an October new special session of the Hawaii legislature called by Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie to move forward on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, the Mormon church is once again calling upon its membership to get involved. The difference in a Post Prop 8 world according to Ruth Todd, spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that the emphasis will be focused on not telling church members in the Aloha state which side of the issue to take, only to study the church’s philosophy in a document ["The Family: A Proclamation to the World."] that endorses one man/one woman as the ideal for marriage.
As the special session approaches, church leadership have urged Mormons in a letter dated last Sunday- and read to LDS churches- to "study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation."
Whether Mormons favor or oppose the potential change, the letter said, they should push for "a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith" that would protect religious groups "from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages."
If lawmakers pass a bill, Hawaii would join 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.
Owen Matsunaga, the LDS church’s spokesman in Hawaii, affirmed that stance, saying that "senior church leaders … are certainly aware of the issues in Hawaii and elsewhere in the world, and are available to us to provide expertise as needed, but expect local leaders and members to make decisions specific to local circumstances."
"Our position in Hawaii," Matsunaga wrote in an email to The Salt lake City Tribune, "is entirely consistent with the church’s doctrine and in harmony with this pattern."
Quin Monson, a political scientist at the LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, notes that the new approach to the same-sex marriage issue is "significant."
"It doesn’t seem to be asking for direct involvement in the direction of the legislation, but asking people to defend religious liberty,"" said Monson.
The letter’s language seems to "signal a kind of resignation that there’s a shift in society that we can’t stop," he added.
The special state legislative session is scheduled to begin Oct. 28.