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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for November, 2013

Hawaii marriage bill signed

Timothy Kincaid

November 13th, 2013

Star Advisor

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed the marriage equality bill into law this morning, describing the law as part of Hawaii’s “legacy of aloha.”

At a signing ceremony at the Hawai’i Convention Center’s Liliu Theater, the governor told dozens of invited guests and state lawmakers that the marriage equality bill was the “epitome of the First Amendment in action.”

Hawaii is the 15th state plus the District of Columbia to allow gay marriage. Illinois is expected to become the 16th state later this month when Gov. Pat Quinn signs a marriage equality bill into law in Chicago.

Gay couples can get married in Hawaii as soon as Dec. 2. Clergy can refuse to perform gay weddings. Churches and other religious organizations can deny goods, services and facilities for gay weddings and receptions if it violates religious beliefs.

I understand that the beach, the palm trees, and the tropical forest have already announced that they have no religious objections. Poi is on board, as is the ukulele and luau.

Hawaii Becomes #15 as Governor Signs Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

November 13th, 2013

In a private, invitation-only ceremony at the Hawai’i Convetion Center, Gov. Neil Abercrimbit signed into law a bill granting marriage equality to Hawaii’s same-sex couples:

“In Hawaii, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality,” Abercrombie said Tuesday after the state Senate passed the gay marriage bill. “Today, we celebrate our diversity defining us rather than dividing us.”

Gov. Abercrombie also read from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and called the marriage equality bill “the epitome of the First Amendment in action.” The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which normally has its articles behind a paywall, provided a public article with more details about today’s ceremony“:

Abercrombie signed the bill into law today with a koa pen, which he said he would give to Steven Levinson, the former state Supreme Court associate justice who wrote the landmark 1993 opinion on same-sex marriage.

Levinson’s opinion on behalf of a splintered Hawaii Supreme Court cleared the way for Hawaii to be the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriages, a radical idea at the time. It produced a backlash nationally, with Congress in 1996 passing the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited federal benefits from going to same-sex married couples.

In Hawaii, the state Legislature adopted a measure in 1994 reserving marriage between a man and a woman; voters then passed an amendment in 1998 that states, “The Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

When the law goes into effect on December 2, Hawaii will become the fifteenth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, eight counties in New Mexico and seven Native American tribes, to provide marriage equality. Illinois, which had been slated to become number fifteen, will now slide to a tentative sixteenth when same-sex marriages become legal there next June. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to sign that state’s marriage equality bill into law in a ceremony scheduled for November 20.

Marriage clears last procedural hurdle, heads to Governor

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2013

ABC

The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday legalizing gay marriage, putting Hawaii a signature away from becoming a same-sex wedding destination.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called lawmakers to a special session for the bill and has vocally supported gay marriage, has said he would sign the measure. It will allow thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2.

Senators passed the bill 19-4 with two lawmakers excused. Cheers erupted inside and outside the gallery when the vote was taken, with a smattering of boos.

Hawaii House Approves Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2013

Shortly after 10:00 p.m. last night Hawaii time, the state House finally approved a marriage equality bill in a 30-19 vote. The final vote capped a twelve-hour session in which the House turned back  sixteen amendments which would have, among other things, further expanded the scope of religious exemptions and delayed in marriage equality by creating a task force to study it. All sixteen amendments were rejected in voice votes.

The Senate had already approved a marriage equality bill in October. This bill will now go back to the Senate for reconsideration due to amendments added by two House committees earlier this week. Senate leaders are leaning toward avoiding further demonstrations by not taking the bill to a conference committee to iron out the differences, and are likely instead hold a concurrence vote next Tuesday.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement after the House vote:

“I commend the House of Representatives for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement. “After more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments, and deliberating procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equity for same-sex couples and protects our First Amendment freedoms for religious organizations.”

Once the bill clears the Senate and is signed by Gov. Abercrombie, it will go into effect on December 2.

Um, What?

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2013

Hawaii Democratic state Rep. Jo Jordan — make that openly gay Democratic state Rep. Jo Jordan — seems to be suffering either from some kind of political Stockholm syndrome, some misguided martyrdom complex, or maybe she just feels like she has something to prove. I don’t know. But guess what?

One lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Jo Jordan of Waianae, said on the floor that she would oppose the bill — despite her thoughts and beliefs and gay marriage potentially benefiting her personally.

“No, nobody’s going to beat me up. Nobody’s going to throw me out of my (LGBT) community — I’m not quite sure of that,” Jordan said.

But Jordan said she set aside her beliefs when she listened to five days of testimony during a joint committee hearing and listened with an open heart. Much of spoken public testimony during the hearing came in opposition to the bill.

“I might vote against something that I personally believe in. I personally believe I should have the right,” Jordan said. “You know how hard it is for me to say no? I have to say no.”

Jordan voted “no” during yesterday’s unusually contentious Second Reading. Preliminary celebrations aside, second readings are ordinarily procedural votes to consider amendments and move the bill from committee to the House floor. The real vote, the one that counts, is the Third Reading which is scheduled for tomorrow. But because yesterday’s 30-18 vote was so contentious, I think it gives us a good indication of where things stand for final passage.

Because the House has made a few changes to the bill, it must now go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. Again, this is ordinarily a simple procedural vote. Last weekend there had been some concerns expressed that the Senate may not go along with the House’s proposed expansion of the religious exemption clauses. But now it looks like the Senate is on board, so concurrence should be no big deal, although this report says that it won’t get to the Senate “until Tuesday, at earliest.”  I’m keeping my champagne on ice for a while.

You can track the bill’s progress here.

Hawaii House Committee Approves Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2013

After more than 55 hours of debate spread over five full days in which 5,182 Hawaiians sighed up to speak before the House Judiciary and Finance Committees, the last citizen was heard and committee members finally voted to advance the bill to the full House in an 18-12 vote. At least two amendments were made to the bill:

During the decision making process, the House committee amended the bill to broaden a religious exemption that allows “for profit” religious leaders to refuse service for same-sex marriage ceremonies and moved the effective date from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2.

Hawaii News Now adds details on a third amendment:

It also eliminates a provision regarding to parental rights that has been questioned because it would give Native Hawaiian status to children of same-sex couples with a non-biological Native Hawaiian parent that could provide them with undue benefits or privilege.

The bill completed its second reading tonight on the House floor. It will likely come up for a final vote on Thursday. If it survives that vote, it will then have to go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before being sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Update: It looks like the bill’s second reading will actually occur tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. HST (noon PST, 3:00 p.m EST). It would put the final vote on Friday, since lawmakers are entitled to 48 hours’ notice due to the amendments.

 

Hawaii Senate Approves Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 30th, 2013

The Hawaii state Senate has approved the marriage equality bill. The approval came on a 20-4 vote. The Senate’s lone Republican member — yes, there is just one Republican in the Hawaii Senate, making him the Minority Leader by default — joined three Democrats to oppose the bill. The marriage equality bill now goes to the House, where the bill is expected to encounter a rougher time despite a commanding 44-7 Democratic advantage. Already, it appears that the House is likely to amend the Senate bill to expand special religious exemptions, including a possible special exception to allow for-profit businesses to discriminate against gay couples. The House Judiciary and Finance Committees will hold a joint hearing tomorrow, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Depending on how many people sign up to testify, the hearings mights spill onto Friday.

Marriage passes Hawaii Senate Judiciary

Timothy Kincaid

October 29th, 2013

UPI

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii cleared a state Senate committee and moved to the full Senate for a vote.
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee approved the bill following nearly 12 hours of testimony Monday during which more than 400 people addressed lawmakers, Hawaii News Now reported.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday. If it passes, it will go to the House, where a joint hearing before the Judiciary and Finance committees is scheduled Thursday.

Busy week!

Hawaii Senate hears marriage on Monday

Timothy Kincaid

October 22nd, 2013

StarAdvertiser

Gov. Neil Abercrombie made the request for lawmakers to hear the other bills on Tuesday while also notifying the Legislature about a revised gay marriage bill.

The state Senate will take the lead on the gay marriage bill, with a public hearing Monday morning before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.

Hawaii Legislature To Be Called into Special Session for Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

September 10th, 2013

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) has announced that he will call the state legislature back into special session on October 28 to take up a same-sex marriage bill:

State House Democrats have met over the past two weeks to count votes and determine if support existed to pass a measure. Senate Democrats are scheduled to meet later this week, although leaders have said they have enough votes to pass the Marriage Equity Bill.

Abercrombie had previously said he was waiting for a clear signal from the Legislature before calling the lawmakers back for a special session. Last week, he said he believed he had all the information he needed to make his decision.

You can find the full text of the bill here. Gov. Abercrombie cites the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as a reason to take up the issue because of how the court’s decision affects taxes for same-sex couples. Hawaii currently allows civil unions, which are not recognized at the Federal level. Left unsaid in Abercrombie’s announcement is the fact that Hawaii is a major romantic wedding destination, either as a location for the wedding itself or for the honeymoon. Weddings are already a big business in Hawaii, and with marriage equality unavailable in 38 states, there are a lot of couples looking around for an interesting and romantic setting for saying “I do.” I’m sure many of them would prefer exchanging their vows on a beautiful beach at sunset over, say, Minneapolis.

Hawaii may have special session on marriage

Timothy Kincaid

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.

ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2013

Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.

Next Step: civil union states

Timothy Kincaid

June 26th, 2013

The overturn of DOMA3 provides a number of benefits for citizens of the marriage equality states. But it simultaneously creates a situation of discrimination for those who live in civil union states.

Before today same-sex couples in New Jersey, for example, had all of the same rights as married couples in New York. That is to say, both were afforded all of the marriage rights and obligations that a state confers but none of the federal rights or obligations. Now, however, New York same-sex couples can avail themselves of a whole host of federal benefits while New Jersey couples remain subjected to a lesser status – not only in name, but in practice.

Currently the states with civil unions (or domestic partnerships) are Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon (Wisconsin offers limited rights). Of these, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon are banned by state constitution from offering equal marriage status to same-sex couples. Which leaves our next battlegrounds to be Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey.

In Hawaii, the legislature has been either voting down (or letting die) marriage equality bills, including one submitted in January of this year. However, this changes the picture and it is likely that marriage will finally come to the state which brought the issue to the nation’s attention.

Illinois’ speaker of the House let die a marriage bill just last month. Equality is likely when the House reconvenes in November.

But New Jersey will be the interesting battle. Governor Christie vetoed a marriage bill in February 2012. But he has also supported civil unions and asserted that “discrimination should not be tolerated”. Although marriage and civil unions simply are not equal, his position was not necessarily contradictory before today.

Now, however, a state can decide if federal benefits should be afforded to their gay citizens. Should the legislature send Christie another marriage bill – and I anticipate that they will – he will have to decide whether he opposes unequal treatment or whether he supports tradition and the teachings of his church. And as Christie has presidential aspirations, this might be the first indicator as to whether the Republican Party can acclimate to the new reality.

Hawaii’s marriage deadline

Timothy Kincaid

February 12th, 2013

Today the leadership of Hawaii’s legislature will decide whether to kill marriage equality for this legislative session. If a hearing isn’t scheduled before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate or House, the marriage bill will die.

Supporters are hoping that they can find procedural ways around the deadline, but if leadership opposes the bill (or fears that it doesn’t have sufficient support) then procedure isn’t the problem.

How ironic that it may well turn out marriage came closer to a reality this year in Wyoming than Hawaii.

Marriage Bills Introduced In Hawaii

Jim Burroway

January 25th, 2013

A flurry of bills addressing same-sex marriage have been introduced into Hawaii’s House and Senate yesterday. One version of bills introduced simultaneously in both houses by Sen. Mike Gabbard (D-20) and Rep. Faye Hanohano (D-4) would grant full marriage equality to Hawaii’s same-sex couples.

Gabbard is a former Republican who campaigned against gay rights in the 1990s and pushed for the 1996 Constitutional amendment which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality and reserved the power to interpret what constitutes a legal marriage in the state to the legislature.

Two more bills introduced by Rep. John Mizuno (D-28) appear aimed at countering Gabbard and Hanohano’s bills. Mizuno, who says that he opposes same-sex marriage, proposed two constitutional amendments: one would ban same-sex marriage permanently, and the other would legalize it. Both amendments would go before voters.

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