Civil unions' quiet death an affront to gay couples
A proposal to allow civil unions was left dormant in the House Judiciary Committee.
MEMBERS of the state House Judiciary Committee heard five hours of impassioned testimony this week on a proposal to expand the rights of homosexual couples
. At the end, the bill appears to have died without even a vote in the committee, displaying a deplorable absence of accountability.
Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey allow civil unions, recognizing rights such as tax breaks, adoption and health benefits for gay couples. The proposal would grant similar rights in Hawaii, without recognizing gay unions as marriages, which are honored in Massachusetts.
More than 400 people submitted written or oral testimony on the bill and deserved the courtesy of a committee vote on the issue. Committee Chairman Tommy Waters' later said he chose not to call for a vote because most committee members opposed the bill, and he wanted to leave open the possibility of a compromise. That seems highly unlikely, given the strident polarization on the issue.
Hawaii was in the forefront of gay rights 14 years ago when the state Supreme Court required the state to explain why homosexual marriages should be forbidden. Hawaii voters proceeded to approve a state constitutional amendment that essentially ratified a ban on such marriages that had been approved by the Legislature.
Hawaii legislators have been progressive since then in allowing gay partners various rights such as family and bereavement leaves, probate rights and hospital visitation. Gay couples were hopeful that their partnerships would be recognized as civil unions not only in Hawaii but in New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island, where similar legislation is pending.
The muzzling of the legislation by the Judiciary Committee was an affront to gay couples, who deserve a recorded vote and an explanation for the rejection of the measure. Future sessions should provide a more candid and respectful consideration of the issue.
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