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Who won and who lost in battle over civil unions


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POSTED: Sunday, March 29, 2009

Only in politics can nothing happen and the fact that nothing changes causes everyone to weigh the political fallout from the inaction.

Today couples of the same gender can't get married, can't establish a civil union and don't have the same legal rights, benefits and protections of married couples.

This was the way it was before the Legislature got involved. And it remains that way after the Legislature got involved.

The bill to establish civil unions, which make same-sex couples equal to married couples in everything except calling it marriage, passed the House, went to the Senate, which held a 7.5-hour hearing and then found the Judiciary committee deadlocked, unable to either kill or move the bill.

Then the Senate went back and forth counting votes to pull the bill out of committee, counting votes to see if it could be passed by the Senate and then exploring alternatives such as amending the bill, sending it back to the House and counting the votes to pass it in the House.

That is how almost all bills become law, but few pieces of legislation have such a white-hot public reaction as does the issue of gay marriage and civil unions.

So when nothing happens, who is helped and who is hurt?

First, the Senate's two sponsors, Sens. Gary Hooser and Les Ihara, couldn't deliver, but they get points from liberals and gay activists for trying.

Hooser might get some help in his campaign for lieutenant governor, but it is not going to be big.

Democratic Sen. Michelle Kidani was sporting a dozen or so leis given to her Friday by supporters who thought she showed a lot of courage as the only freshman in the group of six to vote to pull the bill out of committee for a floor vote.

At the same time, those six did nothing to please the crowds of thousands who packed the state Capitol for anti-civil union/gay marriage rallies.

As the political adage goes, winning elections is done with addition, not subtraction. The game is about getting more people to vote for you, not separating yourself from voters.

No points go to Gov. Linda Lingle, who dodged the issue by blandly saying, “;I haven't read the bill.”;

For Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who is still mulling a race for either governor or Congress, the exercise didn't move the needle either way, which means she didn't add anything.

Two clear political winners were our two declared candidates for governor. Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona, who said at the beginning he didn't like civil unions or gay marriage and was against it.

And U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who testified in favor of the civil union bill and didn't shrink from the controversial issue.

Both will gain some supporters for their public stands.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).