Holt tries end run in same-sex fuss

His Senate committee moves a last-minute
bill against such marriages

By Alan Matsuoka

In a last-minute attempt to voice opposition to same-sex marriage, a Senate committee last night approved a bill that says the purpose of Hawaii's marriage law is to preserve relationships between a man and a woman.

But the legislative tactics used by the Senate Consumer Protection Committee in bringing the measure up for a vote were questioned by even some members of the panel, who said they were unaware of the bill's contents until minutes before they met.

"We've been unable to get a draft of the bill," said Sen. David Ige, who voted against it. "I think to say this is a fair hearing when the proposed contents are available just a short time prior to the hearing is unreasonable."

Committee Chairman Milton Holt said the measure wasn't released earlier because he hoped some action would be taken on same-sex marriage bills that have stalled in other committees.

"We were keeping our fingers crossed that something might pop somewhere," he said. "It hasn't, and we haven't gotten any indication that something will."

Consequently, Holt said he thought it was crucial to take action and give the state attorney general's office some ammunition in its pending court battle against three same-gender couples who are seeking marriage licenses.

The committee's action was taken just six hours before a midnight deadline for passage.

The issue has been handled in the Senate by the Judiciary Committee, which earlier passed a domestic partnership bill that was approved by the full chamber.

Holt is against domestic partnerships, and rumors began circulating early yesterday that he would take some related action at his committee hearing, where the only item on the agenda was a bill titled "relating to licensing."

The measure proposed adding sexual misconduct as a ground for disciplinary action against physicians and osteopaths. But a bill generally can be gutted as long as its new contents remain consistent with the title, and Holt used marriage licenses as the rationale for his rewriting.

Seven people - most of them principals in the fight against same-sex marriage - testified in support of the measure.

"I thank you for your courage," said the Rev. Marc Alexander, co-chairman of Hawaii's Future Today and executive director of the Hawaii Catholic Conference. "I extend gratitude to you for giving the people a voice when the voice has been silenced thus far."

The only speaker opposed was Vanessa Chong of the American Civil Liberties Union, representing the Coalition for Equality and Diversity. "These arguments that you add in your bill have already been articulated by your deputy attorney general litigating the case," she said.

Holt and Sens. Randy Iwase, Whitney Anderson and James Aki voted for the bill; Ige and Sen. Les Ihara Jr. voted against.

The bill appears likely to die.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Rey Graulty said he will ask, at a majority caucus Monday, that it be recommitted because the issue is outside the Consumer Protection Committee's jurisdiction. If that happens, "it would be dead for the year because it would not meet the required deadline to pass bills over to the House," he said.

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