Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal to the state’s civil unions law to allow religious organizations to deny use of their facilities for a solemnization ceremony.

The proposed conference draft — known as a CD1 — for House Bill 2569 is intended to ensure that churches do not violate the state law on public accommodations that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The new language, which is highlighted in the document posted at the end of this article, says the facilities must be those used only for religious purposes, restricted to members of the organization and not operated for commercial purposes.

The CD1 was proposed Tuesday at a conference committee hearing by Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran, chair of House Judiciary. He called the religious exemption “fairly narrow.”

House and Senate conferees will meet again Friday afternoon to consider the proposed language.

Some Exemptions Granted

Religious groups like Hawaii Family Forum and the Catholic Church had fought this session for an exemption to the solemnization of civil union ceremonies, arguing that an exemption would respect religious freedom.

While the House seemed inclined to grant such an exemption, Sen. Clayton Hee, chair of Senate Judiciary and Labor, refused to allow the exemption because he said it was unconstitutional.

The CD1 is a compromise that seeks to satisfy churches while still allowing civil union couples to have ceremonies or receptions in facilities that are rented out by churches, such as a municipal room.

Hawaii’s civil unions law, which was passed in 2011 and went into effect Jan. 1, does not punish ordained clergy or judges who refuse to perform ceremonies.

About the Author