January 27th, 2009
Last week we told you that the legislature in Hawaii may consider marriage equality this year. Now it seems that civil unions are much likelier in the short term. In fact, the decision on whether to enact civil unions may fall to one man.
In the House, 32 of the 51 representatives have already signed onto legislation that would allow for civil unions (Honolulu Advisor):
Same-sex couples who obtain a license could have their civil union performed by a judge, retired judge or member of the clergy. Partners who enter into civil unions would have the same rights, benefits and protections under state law as married couples. The state would also recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages validly performed in other states.
Same-sex couple legislation has been held up in the past in the House Judiciary Committee, but it appears that the chairman has the votes this year to advance the bill to the full House where it has overwhelming support. The potential problem this year is on the Senate side in the Judiciary and Government Operations Committee.
On the six-member committee, Taniguchi, state Sen. Dwight Takamine, D-1st (Hamakua, S. Hilo), and state Sen. Clarence Nishihara, D-18th (Waipahu, Crestview, Pearl City), are supportive of civil unions. State Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele), and state Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Kahala, Hawai’i Kai), are opposed.
This may leave the rights of thousands of gay men and women in Hawaii in the hands of one man.
The potential swing vote on the committee is state Sen. Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), who has opposed same-sex marriage in the past but said he will keep an open mind on civil unions.
Personally, I think that there is a much stonger argument to be made for marriage in Hawaii than for civil unions. While I think that a great many gay men and women would travel to the island state to become legally married – bringing with them family, friends, and lots of tourist dollars – civil unions are not as likely to encourage such an economic boon.
But many many couples in Hawaii are in urgent need of the rights and protections that civil unions can bring. And if Robert Bunda cannot be convinced of the fairness and wisdom of civil marriage, we need to do what we can to encourage him to take the steps he can take today.
Take a moment to think of friends or family in Hawaii and ask them to contact Sen. Bunda and politely remind him that the protection and care of the citizen and his rights is the first responsibility of a legislator.
22nd Senatorial District
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 202
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
phone 808-586-6090; fax 808-586-6091
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