Hawaii Mormon Same-Sex Marriage

Mormon leaders, after staying quiet for so long on the marriage issue that many states have already approved legislation on, are finally talking about it with new importance.

Hawaii is currently debating legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage. Hawaii Mormon leaders wrote a letter to congregations urging its Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members to look carefully over the legislation and, as private citizens, to reach out to their elected officials to express concerns about it.

There was no indication in the letter of how members should react to the legislation. Rather, it suggested they study the church’s document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which endorses the man/woman proclamation for marriage.

The letter said whether or not Mormons are for the change, they need to call for a powerful exclusion for people and faith organizations that protect the religious groups from having to support and/or perform same-sex marriages or host them.

Ruth Todd, spokeswoman, said Salt Lake City LDS leaders are aware of the Hawaii’s issues. However, they anticipate that the state’s leaders and followers will make assessments based on the local situations.

Owen Matsunaga, a stake leader for several congregations and a Hawaii church spokesman, said the position in Hawaii is based mainly on the doctrine of the church.

LDS-owned Brigham Young University Political Scientist Quin Monson said the approach being taken in Hawaii is important. While it’s not asking people to direct how the legislation plays out, it is asking people to protect religious freedom.

Monson said the language of the letter leads to an understanding that society’s shift on the issue is unstoppable but it’s asking for some exclusion.

The take in Hawaii is vastly different to the one that the Utah-based faith took in 2008 to assist in passing Proposition 8 in California, which limited the definition of marriage to a man and a woman. At this time, the letter from the LDS First Presidency told members to support Prop 8 by donating their time and means.

Mormons raised millions of dollars, passing the measure. However, the courts overturned it.

Five percent of Hawaii’s population is Mormon. In the mid-1990s, they worked in silence to squash the movement to approve gay civil unions.

A LDS-built Polynesian Center in Oahu recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

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