Church experiences fallout over same-sex marriage law

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jan 30 2014 05:51:48 PM HST
Updated On: Jan 30 2014 07:40:44 PM HST

Not even two months after same-sex marriage became legal in Hawaii, it's now splintering congregations in some area churches. There are debates all over the islands over whether they should let couples use their facilities for commercial weddings.

HONOLULU -

It's been only about two months since the law allowing same-sex marriage took effect in Hawaii.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's story.

But it has made for some soul-searching over a dilemma for some church communities who use their facilities for commercial weddings.

Churches have been weighing their options: lose members, or lose money?

There has been lots of hand-wringing over the law which prohibits discrimination where commercial weddings take place.

One Oahu church has opened its doors to weddings without regard to gender.

Another has put the brakes on Japanese weddings until its congregation comes to terms with what to do.

Kawaiahao Church very quietly stopped booking commercial weddings late last year.

It's honoring previous bookings, but is holding off on any new ones until the congregation decides whether to allow its facilities to be used for same-sex marriages.

Members are to vote next month.

Across town at Central Union the congregation’s vote was 2-1 to allow its church to be used for weddings without regard to gender.

But it did not come without a cost.

The Pastor said about half-dozen members parted ways with the church.

"It is always painful to lose members, especially members who have been here for a long time. Everyone understood there would be fallout," said Rev. David Hirano.

Hirano said the vote also threatened to affect the church's collection box.

“Some had been withholding their pledges until the vote took place. The day I heard that two pledges that were withdrawn, I also learned four pledges that were made," said Hirano.

At St. Peter’s Episcopal Church downtown leaders say the congregation is still in talks,  but the company that handles commercial weddings there will be allowed to conduct same gender ceremonies.

That could be new business for the companies who cater to out-of-towners looking for a venue by the ocean-- like at Calvary by the Sea in Aina Haina.

So far, fears about discrimination by wedding venders have not materialized.

"Hard to guess at what the reason is, but it’s probably true that people are likely to go where feel welcomed," said Bill Hoshijo of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

Some churches are still on the fence about whether to put out the welcome mat, but Central Union has found a way to make peace with its church staff .

Clergy and musicians who still want to stay with the church,
but don't want to take part in same-sex weddings don't have to.

Pastor Hirano said he doesn’t assign them those ceremonies.

"It may be a good compromise. It respects the choice of individuals while still not denying services to same sex couples," Hoshijo said.

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