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Tonight’s informational session leans heavily conservative

Why the neighbor islands won't be getting similar informational sessions on the Marriage Equality bill

Will Caron

In a few hours, the Hawaiʻi State House Informational Briefing Panel will hold an “informational session” about same-sex marriage at the Capitol, room 329 at 5:30pm.  The session will feature panelists, described in the notice for the briefing as “experts in the field.” 

House republicans Gene Ward, Bob McDermott and Richard Fale were joined by two Democrats, Marcus Oshiro and Sharon Har, in deciding that it would be a good idea to bring “informational sessions” to the neighbor islands as well. Gene Ward’s staff sent an invitation to the rest of the House to join the neighbor island sessions (original message available under “Documents”).

The plans for this have since fallen through.

“The joint informational briefings were canceled for two reasons,” said McDermott over the phone. “One, we were running out of time logistically, with the session next week; and two, the Democratic majority really came down hard on the democrats who were going to participate with us.”

The invitation states that, “The people of Hawaiʻi deserve to be heard, and Hawaiʻi’s House members owe them time and respect to be listened to before the Special Session,” a reference to the fact that five-day session may only feature one hearing.

“Regardless of how you feel about the issue, the one thing this points out is a lack of transparency and deliberative process,” said McDermott.

Guess who’s coming to the “informational” session

While it’s true that holding just one hearing on the matter is less-than-desirable, we can’t ignore the incredible conservative slant tonight’s “informational” session will have. If the speakers at tonight’s session are any indication of what the neighbor islands would also have gotten, it’s no wonder the Democratic majority didn’t want these sessions taking place.

Tonight’s informational session will feature Professor Lynn Wardle of BYU Law School, Phil Lees, the current leader of the Family Coalition Party of Ontario, Mark Regnerus, the controversial author of “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” and William Duncan, the Director of the “Marriage Law Foundation.”

All four men are anti-gay marriage and are likely to tell listeners tonight of the evils same-sex marriage will bring upon the children of Hawaiʻi—just like it has in the District of Columbia, the 14 other U.S. states and the 14 countries around the world that have legalized it, right?

Wrong. An American Sociologists of America (ASA) brief written to the United States Supreme Court this past February, in opposition to the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group and Proposition 8 proponents’ assertions that children fare better with opposite-sex parents than with same-sex parents, states:

Decades of methodologically sound social science research, especially multiple nationally representative studies and the expert evidence introduced in the district courts below, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources. Whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on a child’s wellbeing.

As a side note, the ASA brief directly challenges the study conducted by panelist Regnerus, both in terms of research method and conclusion (full document attached above under “Documents”).

O’Reilly’s Bed and Breakfast will be present as well to give “legal experiences” from Vermont, one of the 14 states that has a law supporting same-sex marriage. It’s unclear, however, what side their legal experiences will fall on.

If you ask me

To recap; not one of the five scheduled “experts in the field” is clearly pro-gay marriage, but at least four of them are clearly anti-gay marriage.

“The Governor supports same-sex marriage and the majority leader supports it,” said McDermott. “But [public opinion] is about evenly divided—and I can only guess—but I’d say [the House majority] don’t want to build a grassroots push against this.”

McDermott’s point is that if the population is divided on the issue, it is inherently a controversial issue and shouldn’t be treated as a done-deal. Instead, it should be brought before the people for discussion. “Despite what the advocates say, there are still many unanswered questions.”

And there are many voices that won’t be heard in tonight’s briefing.

The first hearing of the special session on Marriage Equality will take place next Monday, October 28, at 10:30am in the State Capitol Auditorium, 415 South Beretania Street. The notice is also attached under “Documents,” above.