Hawaii may have special session on marriage
August 20th, 2013
Hawaii has a unique and peculiar relationship with its gay citizens. First to offer any form of recognition in 1991, it was also the first state to change its constitution to allow the legislature to deny equality (later constitutional amendments in other states banned equality outright, rather than authorize their legislature to do so). The end result was a completely useless reciprocal benefits provision that virtually no couples utilized.
For several years there were attempts to provide a more equal status for same-sex couples, but it was not until 2010 that a civil unions bill passed the legislature. It was vetoed by Governor Linda Lingle (R).
In January 2011, the state began again the civil unions process and Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) signed the bill into law.
Earlier this year, a marriage bill was introduced, but it did not progress to a vote.
Hawaii is unusual in that anti-gay Republicans play little role in blocking marriage equality. There are 44 Democrats and 7 Republicans in the state House of Representatives and 24 Democrats and only one Republican in the Senate. Thus politics in the state are less driven by party and more by where a politician fits in the spectrum of the Democratic Party. Hawaii has many Democrats who oppose marriage equality and many who support it; the question is whether there are enough supporters. (WaPo)
Hawaii state House Democrats will meet this week to gauge whether they can come up with the votes to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
If there is sufficient support, and if legislative leaders can agree on language that would withstand court challenges, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) will call a special session to deal with the issue this fall. Abercrombie told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he thinks it’s “very likely” there will be a special session.
“I think we can put together something that can achieve a solid majority, that will give us the opportunity to establish marriage equity in the state of Hawaii commensurate with the recent Supreme Court decisions, and will satisfy and resolve the issues that are presently before the appeals court on the mainland,” Abercrombie told a gathering of state Democrats.
A coalition of religious leaders have endorsed Abercrombie’s goal. (AP)
More than two dozen Hawaii faith leaders of various religions signed a resolution Monday calling the state to pass a law legalizing gay marriage.
Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist and other leaders read and signed the poster-sized declaration at an interfaith brunch at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu.
“It’s all about standing on the right side of history,” said Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kupono Kwong of the First Unitarian Church.
Republicans around the country are seeing the political shift on this issue and (sometimes comically) changing their language and position. Let’s hope that socially conservative Democrats in Hawaii will likewise see the writing on the wall and recognize that there is no future in their party for those who seek to use the power of their position to impose or uphold discrimination.