Civil-unions bill stuck, likely dead


POSTED: Thursday, March 26, 2009

Supporters of civil unions for same-sex couples remained optimistic that such legislation could still pass this year.





        A motion to bring House Bill 444, the civil unions legislation, to the Senate floor for a vote by the full chamber failed, with 18 members opposed, six in favor and one absent. The move required nine “;yes”; votes.

        Robert Bunda, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Brickwood Galuteria, Josh Green, Colleen Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Fred Hemmings, David Ige, Donna Mercado Kim, Russell Kokubun, Clarence Nishihara, Norman Sakamoto, Sam Slom, Dwight Takamine, Brian Taniguchi, Jill Tokuda, Shan Tsutsui


        Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Gary Hooser, Les Ihara Jr., Rosalyn Baker, Michelle Kidani


        J. Kalani English




But realistically the chances are slim, legislative leaders said after the Senate rejected a move yesterday to force a vote on the proposal.

“;If you ask me what I think the probabilities are ... it probably will not happen this session,”; said Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua).

Hanabusa spoke after senators spent an hour debating whether to force a vote on House Bill 444, which would extend all the rights, benefits and protections of marriage to same-sex couples without calling the partnership a marriage.

Opponents who packed the chamber gallery applauded boisterously as the Senate completed its roll call indicating that the move to pull the bill had failed by a vote of 18-6, three shy of the number needed.

“;I'm clearly overjoyed at the turn of events,”; said Garret Hashimoto, chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, which had organized opponents of the legislation for rallies and lobbying of lawmakers. “;I think justice was done today.”;

He and others said the Senate's action reaffirms the 1998 constitutional amendment approved by voters that gives the Legislature the power to reserve marriage for couples of one man and one woman.

“;This is a victory for traditional marriage and preserving the will of the people,”; Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona said in a news release. “;I have said from the beginning that House Bill 444 attempts to circumvent the will of the people by authorizing same-sex marriage under a different name.”;

;[Preview]    Civil Union Bill Fails

Senate supporters failed to yank the stalled civil unions bill out of committee to the floor for a full Senate vote. 3/25/09



Supporters of civil unions expressed disappointment but vowed to continue their fight.

“;Today's vote helps no one in the state of Hawaii,”; Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a news release. “;It protects no one's marriage. It grants dignity to no couple's relationship. It does nothing to ensure that all families receive the equal rights and responsibilities they deserve.

“;But no one is giving up.”;

HB 444 passed out of the House in February but stalled in the Senate, where the Judiciary and Government Operations Committee deadlocked 3-3 on advancing the proposal after a marathon 18-hour hearing.

Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Niihau-Kauai) moved to pull the bill from committee and force an up or down vote by the Senate.

“;For me the main reason to vote yes ... is one of principle and one of obligation,”; he said. “;The principle, of course, is that all people are created equal, and all people deserve to be treated fairly, equally, with respect and dignity.

“;We owe it to these people,”; he added. “;These are our friends, our neighbors our family members. We owe them a full and open discussion of the issues.”;

Opposition was led by Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai), who argued that unlike past measures that were pulled from committee, HB 444 had a full hearing and a final vote.

“;The bill is not stuck in committee. The bill is not bottled up in committee,”; Slom said. “;We came to a conclusion, and the conclusion was there was not enough support to pass this bill at this time.”;