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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Gay rental provision likely to get fine-tuning

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The fate of a bill making it illegal to discriminate against gay people in rental housing will be decided later this month by senators and representatives in joint conference committee.

Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa said yesterday that she supports the intent of House Bill 537, which adds sexual orientation as a protected status in housing issues. But Hanabusa said a proviso that would exempt religious institutions from the statute appears too broad so she wants to discuss the point with her counterparts in the House in conference committee.

The exemption was sought by officials with Brigham Young University-Hawai'i and Hawai'i Reserves Inc. The university is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; HRI is the church's property manager locally.

"When the bill was originally drafted, the exemption appeared to apply just to the campus," Hanabusa said. "But now the exemption has extended to all campus-related activity and all church-related activity."

Last week, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony fromthose who oppose the bill on moral grounds, those who support an exemption for religious organizations, and those who support the bill.

William Woods, executive director for the Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation, said he supports Hanabusa's decision to send the issue to conference committee.

"The original intent was to give a religious exemption to educational institutions for their students only," said Woods, who found that the later draft extended the exemption to all church properties.

But Kailua resident Barbara Guss, who watched yesterday's proceedings, said she opposes the bill and wants it killed entirely.

"I do not feel it is appropriate for government to try to tell me, in areas where I consider to be of moral concern, that this is a proper bill when I know that it is not," Guss said. "There are enough civil rights bills around to protect everybody. We do not need to design a bill around protecting homosexuality."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.