Attorney vowsBy Crystal Kua
to sue state
The attorney who represented three same-sex couples in a decade-long court battle over gay marriages says the Legislature's failure this week to extend to same-sex couples the same benefits as married couples means he'll see the state back in court.
Attorney Dan Foley said yesterday he plans to file a lawsuit next month on behalf of state government workers who want their partners on their health plans.
A Senate bill that would have restored insurance coverage benefits to reciprocal beneficiaries -- couples who could not legally marry including those of the same-sex couples -- failed to make it to the state House floor for a vote Tuesday night, in effect killing the measure this session. The bill would have also applied to the private sector.
The unmarried partners of 60 public employees and retirees lost their health benefits at the end of June when the Legislature failed to extend the 1997 law providing coverage.
"It's just legislators being scared," Foley said.
House Speaker Calvin Say said this being an election year was not a factor in the decision by lawmakers to reject the measures.
Gov. Ben Cayetano, who supports domestic partnerships and reciprocal benefits, thought otherwise.
"I can understand the reluctance of the Legislature to deal with this in an election year," Cayetano said. "I think the fear of backlash in the election and having their opponents make this a political issue is a very, very large factor of what's happening."
Cayetano said he believes that incumbents may be concerned because the same-sex marriage issue led to the defeat of some lawmakers at the ballot box in the past and the fear that the "extremists and the homophobes come of the woodwork and raise this issue to a level where people would get emotional about things."
But Cayetano said he believes the legislative arena and not the courts is where the issue should be resolved.
Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes