House OKs expansion of marriage-like benefits
The bill gives benefits to those barred by law from marrying
House lawmakers have given final approval to a proposal extending some health benefits to individuals who are not in a traditional marriage.
The bill approved Thursday addresses the state's existing "reciprocal beneficiaries" law, which was passed in 1997 to provide benefits, such as workers compensation and health insurance, to those who are barred by law from marrying, including same-sex couples.
House Bill 1290, House Draft 1, would extend government health benefits to individuals who enter into a reciprocal beneficiary agreement with a state or county worker. The provision for state and county workers was not included in the 1997 measure because of cost concerns, lawmakers said.
"This is a good move just in the sense that something is happening that's going to expand rights for everybody," said Rep. Joe Bertram (D, Makena-Kihei).
Although the proposal advanced unanimously on Tuesday, six lawmakers changed their stance in the final vote yesterday. They were Democratic Reps. Michael Magaoay and Joey Manahan, and Republican Reps. Corinne Ching, Lynn Finnegan, Colleen Meyer and Gene Ward. Eleven lawmakers did not participate in the vote.
The proposal previously was included in another bill, which died in committee along with a measure that would have legalized civil unions for gay couples.
"No one in the gay community wanted this bill," said Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai). "I believe the gay community said unequivocally, 'We want same-sex marriage or civil unions and not this bill,' and that's why I'm voting no."