Maui Hawaii Celebrate Gay Marriage this Week

Paradise is a strong word, and I don’t use it lightly. But Maui, Hawaii
is truly a paradise in every way.

It has glorious warm weather all
year, with just enough of a breeze from the trade winds to keep you
feeling refreshed. The tropical greenery and colourful flowers are
spectacular, and there’s nothing better than the relaxing sound of the
surf crashing on the beach as you drift off to sleep every night.
Wouldn’t you want to get married in Paradise?!

A gay Oklahoma City couple is happy to be on Maui and among the
first couples to be joined in a civil union after a state law allowing
such unions went into effect last  Sunday.

“We are proud to be part of
it,” said 40-year-old Rich Tucker, a mortgage company owner, shortly
before his Monday sunset ceremony with partner 37-year-old David Dobson,
a Realtor.

“We wanted to have the ceremony somewhere tropical. It’s awesome to have accepting people that accept everyone. No one
is segregated,” Tucker said about Hawaii and the civil unions law.

Dobson added: “In Oklahoma, it’s still very much the Bible Belt.”

Industry insiders have said they expect that the law legalizing civil unions, which took effect Jan. 1, will lead to a boost in tourism among same-sex visitors. Hotel executives said they’re actively reaching out to the gay and lesbian community with promotions and packages aimed at couples who are eager to make their commitment official.

“We’ve had 10 ceremonies booked so far,” said Chuck Spence, owner of the Maui Sunseeker LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) Resort in Kihei. “Already we’ve also seen an immediate boost in bookings, and not just because of civil unions, but because the law also opens up the perception by the gay and lesbian community that Hawaii is truly a welcoming state. We are aloha.”

Hawaii’s hard-fought civil unions law was bitterly opposed by conservative and Christian groups, who said the measure posed a threat to heterosexual marriage and traditional families.

Deacon Walter Yoshimitzu of the Honolulu Roman Catholic Diocese said marriage should be only between a man and a woman.

“Even with civil unions, we believe it is same-sex marriage by another name,” he said.

State Sen. Roz Baker, who represents West and South Maui and was a supporter of the civil unions bill, said she hoped the law would attract couples to Hawaii.

“Let’s face it, too, nowhere is the weather nicer, or are there as many beautiful places to visit year round, than in Hawaii,” she said, adding that “the wedding business has always been good to Maui.” Year round the weather is gorgeous!

But she and West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey noted that the new civil unions license will be recognized only in Hawaii, so they anticipated it to attract a wave but not a tsunami of same-sex visitors.

“It’s not going to be a billion-dollar law,” McKelvey said.

More significant than its ability to attract visitors, he said, the law was important for gays and lesbians living in Hawaii, because it would give them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“We still have a long way to go,” said spokesman Don Bentz for Equality Hawaii of Honolulu, a gay rights advocacy group. “If a couple, let’s say, comes from Florida (which doesn’t have gay marriage or civil unions), they have rights here but lose them after the plane ride.”

Frank  and Kevin, who own a wedding service on Maui, have been performing ceremonies for heterosexual and gay couples, recognized or not, for many years. They’ve said they expect their numbers to go from nearly 40 ceremonies a year to more than 100.

Maui SunSeeker  is  going to provide group room discounts and gifts like champagne. Rich and David were the first guests to tie the knot!

He noted that they’re bringing friends – as others certainly will – and that the tourists will spend money at other Maui businesses.

“In regard to tourism, absolutely this will have a great impact. No question,” said Spence, whose hotel currently has 25 rooms and now plans to add more.

Applications and information about civil unions are available online at  hawaii.gov/health.