By CLAUDINE SAN NICOLAS, Staff Writer
WAILUKU - At least 400 members from churches of various denominations turned out for a rally against the civil unions bill at the State Building in Wailuku.
The rally coincided with similar events held Sunday across Hawaii, including one at the Capitol that drew thousands of people.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
At least 400 people attend a rally Sunday in Wailuku to protest the civil unions bill
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
Rose P. Rosa holds signs that express her opposition to House Bill 444 during an iVote rally Sunday at the State Building in Wailuku.
"We've got to let the politicians know where we stand," said Deacon Walter Yoshimitzu, who spoke on behalf of Honolulu Roman Catholic Bishop Larry Silva.
Coordinated by the Hawaii Family Forum and the Hawaii Catholic Conference, the iVote Hawaii rally was an attempt to make a statement about upholding traditional family values while encouraging Christians to carry out their civic responsibility and vote in the fall elections.
Attendees were asked to fill out an "iVote Commitment Pledge" to encourage their family, friends and fellow churchgoers to pray, spread the word about registering to vote and contacting state legislators to express their support for legislation that upholds traditional family values.
The Hawaii Legislature opens Wednesday with unfinished business from last year's session, including House Bill 444, which was amended in the closing days of the 2009 session. The bill is up for a Senate vote, and, if it passes, would go back to the House for approval and then possibly on to Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature.
The Senate description of House Bill 444 "extends the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union."
IVote Hawaii provided written scripts for Maui residents to use in a phone call, letter or e-mail to their legislative representatives, asking them to vote against civil unions. According to Sunday's iVote Hawaii literature, Maui state Sens. Roz Baker, Shan Tsutsui and J. Kalani English have shown support for House Bill 444. State Rep. Angus McKelvey of West Maui is the only county legislator who has voted against the bill, iVote organizers said.
Pastor Eddie Asato of Grace Bible Church was pleased with Sunday's turnout and noted that the Evangelical and Catholic churches are working together for the first time in Hawaii to ensure that the civil unions bill does not become law.
"That's an amazing thing. . . . That is something to say praise God, thank God," he said.
He said churches across this state are coming together to serve as "watchmen" who defend traditional family values. A similar rally was held on Kaahumanu Avenue last year during the legislative session.
Sunday's rally also addressed the issue of hunger and provided people a chance to donate nonperishable canned goods to Feed My Sheep, a nonprofit that provides food for Maui's hungry.
Yoshimitzu said Maui's programs for the hungry are models for the entire state, and the island's rally against civil unions could also serve as inspiration to others.
Karen Fontanilla, a member of Valley Isle Fellowship, held up a sign supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman while listening to speakers at Sunday's rally.
"I want our legislators to listen to the people of Hawaii. It's very obvious we're not hateful people. We're not here to hate anyone; we're here to uphold our values," she said.
For more information about opposition to the civil unions bill, visit www.hawaiifamilyforum.org.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.