Hawaii marriage referendum a test of our deep prejudices

In the lackluster election that is midterm ’98, there are few things of interest to watch. There are no overwhelming trends, few major shifts, and only a couple of races worth watching.

Granted, there is the Senatorial race in New York between the incumbent Al D’Amato and the challenger Chuck Schumer, or as Mr. D’Amato refers to him: “putzhead.”

But, beyond that, no candidates really jump out. There is, however, something worth watching. In Hawaii, there is a measure on the ballot to legalize same-sex marriage.

This referendum has consequences far more likely to change our society than any one elected official.

This is democracy in action. It allows the people of Hawaii to make a choice about their society.

They aren’t electing someone to decide for them. This is direct. This is pure. No special interests buying off a candidate, no abuse of incumbency, no “character debate.” What we have here is, to borrow from the late, great Bill Brennan, “One man, one vote.”

This ballot measure scares conservatives so much that they went so far as to pass the seemingly unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.

This law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and, more importantly, decrees that no state shall be required to recognize a marriage performed in any other state.

The Constitution of course specifically states that, “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” This would seem to include marriages since they are “public Acts.”

Apparently, though, this doesn’t seem to bother the proponents of this law.

Same-sex marriage is probably most frightening for members of the Christian right.

It would seem to bring homosexuality into the mainstream, a prospect so unthinkable that some conservatives have resorted to likening homosexuals to alcoholics and kleptomaniacs and calling them sick.

Whatever happened to hate the sin, love the sinner? The Hawaii referendum would put them in the same category as you or me.

The Defense of Marriage Act was passed specifically with the Hawaii measure in mind. It sought to prevent the spread of the consequences of such a measure.

If the Hawaii referendum passes, then it will be tested in the courts. And then we will see whether the Constitution can stand up to one of our deepest prejudices.