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Sunday, December 21, 2014         

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Testimony by young adults raises issues of religion and marriage

By Chris Mikesell

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For virtually his entire life, 21-year-old Vincent Rosa has been a devoted Christian, and a tireless advocate for equal protection for gays and lesbians.

Adopted at the age of 6, Rosa told lawmakers how his adoptive parents took him in and gave him a chance to succeed in life. His parents are two men in a "committed relationship," Rosa said.

"I was alone without any parents, without anyone to love or comfort me, or anyone to support me," Rosa told lawmakers yesterday.

He was among more than two dozen in their late teens and 20s who turned out to support Senate Bill 232, a proposal to allow couples to enter into a civil union with all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of traditional marriage.

While most of the young people at yesterday's hearing testified in support of civil unions, there were also some who stood in opposition.

Hawaii Pacific University student and Kaiser High School valedictorian Mark Ryans, 21, at first came to the hearing to pray for the bill's defeat, but seeing the crowd lined up persuaded him to testify.

Ryans acknowledged his testimony was not as effective as it could have been. A powerful argument raised by the civil unions supporters, he said, was that advocates are examining the "faithlessness" and divorce rates of heterosexual married couples.

Mitchell Wildman, an 18-year-old University of Hawaii student who is gay, posed a question to both the committee members and the audience.

"My aunt has been married five times," Wildman said. "My uncle, three. Several other members of my family are on their second marriages.

"Would you have any objection to allowing them a marriage? Why can't I have one shot?"

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 232 by a 3-2 vote.

"It grieves me," Ryans said after the hearing. "Our testimony is weak because we need to fight for traditional marriage within the church. We must see divorce end within the church. We must see marriage and faithfulness and go back to our vows, and only then, in my opinion, can we present stronger testimony."

Though he was disappointed with the committee's vote, Ryans said he is hopeful the bill will be stopped.

"As far as what man can do, it's really bleak, but as far as what God can do, I've seen him do crazier things," Ryans said. "God can still turn it around."

A high school graduate at the age of 16 and a graduate of UH-Manoa at 21, Rosa said he was thankful for the courage his adoptive family gave him not only to succeed, but also to testify and fight for their rights.

"I want their relationship to be recognized by the state under the law," he told lawmakers.

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