Senate passage doesn’t guarantee anything—a House vote and potential Lingle veto still loom
Where We’ve Been
Same-sex civil unions were easily the hottest issue during last year’s legislative session. HB444—which would “recognize civil unions” for same-sex couples but not grant them full marriage status—was passed by the House but stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, numerous lawmakers, including Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, said they didn’t want to force the bill onto the floor out of respect for the committee process, to which we (and others) said: bull.
Even the pro-civil union legislators were scared—scared of the political blowback, of the churches and religious groups that organized hundreds of red-shirted protestors who descended on the Capitol.
The issue, though, goes further back. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. It was seen as a landmark victory in the struggle for gay rights, but the lasting legacy of that ruling has been retrenchment. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, a move some experts say was directly influenced by the Hawaii court’s ruling. Two years later, Hawaii voters approved by a wide margin a constitutional amendment that gave lawmakers the authority to enact a similar definition of marriage—an authority the state legislature went on to exercise.
Where We Are
On January 22, the state Senate passed HB444 with a veto-proof 18-7 vote. Five dissenting Democrats joined the Senate’s two Republicans in the “nay” column.
Quoted in an AP dispatch, Maui Sen. Roz Baker—who sided with the minority and supported pulling HB444 out of committee last year—offered a direct refutation to the main argument of same-sex marriage opponents: “I see nothing in this measure that denies, hurts or harms traditional marriage.” On the other side, Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona said the vote shows “the state Senate is clearly at odds with the people of Hawaii.”
Meanwhile, the blogosphere has lit up with opinions for and against. It looks like Hawaii, for better or worse, will once again be a key staging ground in the battle for gay rights.
The bill now goes back to the House. House Speaker Calvin Say indicated in a January 26 Honolulu Advertiser report that a decision on whether to put the bill to a vote would be made soon. The concern is that the House may not have enough votes to override a potential veto, he said.
Which brings up an essential, and unresolved, question: will Gov. Lingle veto the bill if it lands on her desk? Going back to last year, Lingle has refused to commit one way or the other; most recently she told the Advertiser she doesn’t “spend time reading things that aren’t passed.”
It’s difficult to believe the Governor hasn’t made up her mind; why she’s choosing to remain publicly neutral is anyone’s guess. What is known is her party’s stance, which doesn’t bode well for civil union supporters. – MauiTime, Jacob Shafer
For up-to-date information on HB444 and other measures up for consideration, visit capitol.hawaii.gov/session2010
Here’s a look at the Senators who voted for and against HB444 (Maui Senators in bold):
Supported: Sen. Roz Baker (D), Sen. Suzanne Oakland Chun (D), Sen. Kalani English (D), Sen. Carol Fukunaga (D), Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (D), Sen. Josh Green (D), Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D), Sen. Clayton Hee (D), Sen. Gary Hooser (D), Sen. David Ige (D), Sen. Les Ihara (D), Sen. Michelle Kidani (D), Sen. Russell Kokuburn (D), Sen. Clarence Nishihara (D), Sen. Dwight Takamine (D), Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D), Sen. Jill Tokuda (D), Sen Shan Tsutsui (D)
Opposed: Sen. Robert Bunda (D), Sen. Will Espero (D), Sen. Mike Gabbard (D), Sen. Fred Hemmings (R), Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D), Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D), Sen. Sam Slom (R)