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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.

Marriage loss in Hawaii

Timothy Kincaid

August 9th, 2012

Recently we have become accustomed to hearing good news on the legal front. With the quite obviously unconstitutional federal Defense of Marriage Act (section 3) being litigated in several courts, there have been half a dozen back-to-back victories to report.

However, the constitutionality of state laws is less legally certain, and occasional setbacks, though disappointing, are not surprising. One such setback occurred yesterday. (AP)

U.S. District Court Judge Alan C. Kay’s ruling sides with Hawaii Health Director Loretta Fuddy and Hawaii Family Forum, a Christian group that was allowed to intervene in the case.
“Accordingly, Hawaii’s marriage laws are not unconstitutional,” the ruling states. “Nationwide, citizens are engaged in a robust debate over this divisive social issue. If the traditional institution of marriage is to be reconstructed, as sought by the plaintiffs, it should be done by a democratically elected legislature or the people through a constitutional amendment,” and not through the courts.

Hawaii’s laws are unique. It was in this state that the first “marriage protection” constitutional amendment was passed, and rather than prohibit marriage equality outright, it gives the state legislature the power to do so.

Until last year, when the legislature enacted a civil unions law, Hawaii had a meaningless and insulting reciprocal benefits program (which offered very few benefits and did not recognize relationships). Although the state has a virtual one-party government, the state’s vocal social conservatives have been effective in quashing equality. However, the current governor is an advocate for marriage and I predict that Hawaii will join the ranks of equality states in fairly short time.

Judge Kay was appointed to the federal bench in the 80′s by President Reagan.

The decision will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit. It will be interesting to see where that court falls in that its decision on California’s Proposition 8 was narrowed to address just the unique circumstances of that state and did not speak to the constitutionality of anti-gay bans in general.

Third, Y’all

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2012

My favorite headline of the day came from the Associated Press yesterday morning: “Voting in Alabama, Mississippi could clarify race.” As if. If anything’s clear, it’s that Republican voters don’t want anybody to win the nomination, and it looks like they just might get their way.

AL MS HI
Santorum 35% 33% 25%
Gingrich 29% 31% 11%
Romney 29% 30% 45%
Paul 5% 4% 18%

The man with the money, the candidate with not only every issued covered but every position for each issue, the establishment’s favorite who who came in second in the race for the 2008 nomination and is therefore “next” — that’s who came in third in Alabama and Mississippi. Third! That’s, you know, after second. Ronmey managed to pull in a first place showing in the Hawaii caucuses, and he also captured all nine delegates in the American Samoan caucuses.

In this race, every delegate counts. The delegate count, which is always an approximation, looks like this according to CNN.

Delegates
Romney 489
Santorum 234
Gingrich 139
Paul 66

A total of 1,144 delegates are needed to win the nomination. It’s hard to see Romney getting there before the convention. According to the CNN count, there are still 1,356 delegates, including superdelegates, up for grabs. Romney needs to win 48% of all the remaining delegates to capture the nomination. The next big prize is Illinois, which if Michigan and Ohio are any indication, means that Romney will probably split that state. Whether its enough to make up for the loss he’s likely to receive in Louisiana and the Missouri caucuses, it’s hard to say. April will be kinder to Romney, with Deleware, Maryland, D.C., New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island coming up, but Santorum is likely to win Pennsylvania. Wisconsin may end up a tie like Ohio. But the primaries go south, literally, in May, with contests in Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas. That will be rough territory for Romney.

The only way he can win is for the superdelegates to step in and throw their weight behind Romney. That is a very real possibility. Romney’s picked up some powerful endorsements in the party, but those endorsement’s haven’t meant much when it comes to votes. Santorum  or Gingrich won despite major establishment endorsements for Romney in Tennessee (Gov. Bill Haslam), Oklahoma (Sen. Tom Coburn), South Carolina (Gov. Nikki Haley), Minnesota (former Gov. Tim Pawlenty) and Kansas (former Sen. Bob Dole)

But as hard is it will be for Romney to wrap up the nomination, it’ll be even harder for anyone else to catch up and surpass him. If Gingrich’s ego were to somehow deflate like a popped balloon and all of his delegates went to Santorum, he’d only increase his haul to 373. (And there’s no way Paul’s giving up his delegates.) In the unlikely event that happens, Santorum would still have to pick up 57% of the delegates outstanding. Without it, he needs to win 67% of those remaining. Gingrich needs to pick up 74% and Paul needs 79%. So it means that when the Republicans hit Tampa this summer, there will still probably be a lot of horse trading going on.

Nice try, USA today

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2012

Civil Unions are very very valuable to couples who are able to protect and provide for their family through such institutions. However, as a distinction from marriage they are both silly and pointless.

To gay couples, it is offensive to offer a lower status. To anti-gay activists, any social recognition of same sex couples is anathema. And everyone else just gets confused.

Take, for example, USA Today’s coverage of Hawaii’s Civil Unions law which just came into effect on January 1, 2012. No doubt Nancy Trejos meant well, and the coverage caught the spirit of the story but, well, you’ll see:

The new year could bring Hawaii hotels a wave of same-sex marriage civil union ceremonies.

At least, that’s what they’re hoping.

Many hotels in Maui especially, where there were 5,900 non-residential marriages in 2010, are specifically targeting same-sex couples now that a law went into effect Jan. 1 legalizing civil unions.

The Grand Wailea, for instance, is offering free iPads to the first 10 couples who sign up for civil union packages, according to The Maui News.

A recent University of California-Los Angeles, study found that Iowa’s legalization of gay marriage in 2009 resulted in as much as $12 million additional tourism dollars, The Maui News pointed out.

Maui Hotel & Lodging Association Executive Director Carol Reimann told Hotel Check-in that Maui has the most number of visitor marriages of any of the Hawaiian islands, and expects to see more same-sex marriages civil unions.

“We want to service all segments of the community, and we welcome everyone,” she told Hotel Check-in.

That said, she pointed out that same-sex marriages civil unions in Hawaii won’t be recognized in home states that don’t have the same civil union law. “But I think a lot of people appreciate the fact that Hawaii recognizes it,” she said.

That hasn’t stopped hotels in New York from also catering to same-sex couples since civil unions marriage became legal there in July.

At The Muse Hotel, for instance, concierge Marc Camacho got ordained as a minister shortly after the civil union marriage law went into place. It took him about a week of studies, which the company supported by giving him time during the work day.

“It feels good knowing this is one of the things we can offer” guests, he said.

On Dec. 23, he performed his first civil union marriage ceremony when two California residents checked into The Muse. They had had a ceremony planned in California before Proposition 8 was overturned passed, no longer making same-sex unions legal reverting California back from recognition of marriage to domestic partnerships. They went ahead with the ceremony but wanted to make it legal in New York.

Camacho arranged all the details, re-creating their July California ceremony, down to the same German chocolate cake and cocktails.

Camacho said the hotel is getting more calls and e-mails from other same-sex couples looking to have their weddings or receptions there.

“This is getting us more excited to go down that route,” he said.

Like I said, clearly she meant well. But why don’t we be done with the confusing nomenclature and just celebrate the marriage for everyone, already?

Hawaii’s Governor Abercrombie signs civil unions bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2011

While our quest for marriage equality has a great many contributing historical events, the current nationwide battle can be traced to 1991, when three same-sex couples sued the Hawaii Director of Health for marriage licenses. Supportive court decisions spooked the public and anti-gay activists whipped up hysteria to raise funds, rally the voters, and slap down the “militant homosexual activists.”

And, to be honest, prior to that time a great many of us never considered that our relationships could be equal in the sight of the law. We were conditioned to our own inferiority and few questioned the heterosexist presumption that marriage, by definition, was “one man, one woman.” Hawaii’s legal wranglings first led our community to collectively question just why we should not be allowed to fully join society as spouses on an equal basis with our brothers and sisters.

It did not go well in Hawaii. A Catholic/Mormon coalition ran a campaign of bigotry and deception and the Hawaiian people voted to change their constitution to allow the legislature to define marriage (this was their first effort and they did not yet go for defining marriage itself in a constitutional amendment). The end result was that for the past few decades, Hawaii has had a useless and pointless “reciprocal benefits” scheme by which you and your life partner (or your bowling partner) could assign each other a few limited benefits.

But for a while, the myth prevailed. More than a few times in the 90′s I would hear someone say, “but can’t we get married in Hawaii?” And the dream prevailed to the point where we currently have five legal marriage states (and DC) with three more expected to join this year.

Which makes today a special day. Today Hawaii joins six states which provide the full benefits of marriage under another process (and five states and DC which offer full marriage recognition). (Star Adviser)

Less than a year after seeing the push for civil unions vetoed, gay rights advocates cheered as Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions and making Hawaii the seventh state to grant such privileges to same-sex couples.

Abercrombie signed the legislation at a ceremony today at historic Washington Place.

“E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome,” Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law. “This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise.”

“The legialization of civil unions in Hawaii represents in my mind equal rights for all people,” he said.

It is indeed a jubilant day.

But it’s a little ironic – and oddly appropriate – that Hawaii’s truly joyous occasion was outshown by the actions on the national front. And just a bit sad that on the day they wished to proclaim equal rights and benefits, it seems that they just aren’t as equal as they were yesterday.

Nevertheless, congratulations to Hawaii’s same-sex couples. Together we will move towards full inclusion.

Hawaii to get Civil Unions

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2011

In an 18-5 vote this afternoon, the Hawaii Senate gave its final legislative approval to SB 232, a bill that will allow civil unions for same-sex couples. The bill now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrimbie (D), who says he will sign the bill within the next 10 days. Civil Unions will become available on January 1, 2012.

Hawaii’s version of civil unions will offer all of the state-level benefits of marriage. Civil unions performed in other states which grant them will be recognized in Hawaii as well.

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