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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hawaii congregation readies gay marriage policy

Same-sex marriages won't take place in Hawaii soon. The appeal of a ruling that such unions are legal, made by Honolulu Circuit Court Judge Kevin S.C. Chang in December 1996, is expected to take most of the year.

If the ruling stands, Hawaii could become the first state to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

The Lutheran Church of Honolulu already has received letters from same-sex Lutheran couples from the mainland inquiring about wedding dates. That's no surprise, said Donald Johnson, pastor: "We're known as a safe haven for gay and lesbian Christians."

Johnson testified in 1995 before the state's Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law: "Blessing long-term, same-sex relationships with legal and economic advantages would affirm their positive contribution along with the heterosexual people toward the stability of our communities."

The Honolulu church council appointed a group to propose a policy for same-sex marriages. Thomas Hammond, group leader, said a concern is that new wedding guidelines reflect the criteria for marriages already in place at the church--from required pastoral counseling to selection of music.

"Marriage is a union between two individuals who ask Christ's blessing," he said. "We've already heard of packages for people from the mainland--travel, ceremony, honeymoon, everything. That's definitely not what we want. We don't want to marry anybody who flies here."


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