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Amendment stalls civil-unions bill


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POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009

Both sides of the civil-unions issue said they expect to return to the state Capitol for a rerun of the debate that brought crowds to rallies and prayer meetings throughout the legislative session.

;[Preview]  Civil Unions Bill Is Dead For 2009
 

It was a rollercoaster ride for all involved in the Civil Unions debate.

Watch  ]

 

After packing the Senate gallery yesterday, the two sides parted company with rainbow lei-draped supporters singing the civil rights anthem “;We Shall Overcome”; to drown out Christian praise songs by red-shirted church members led by the Rev. Jay Amina of Ark of Safety Christian Fellowship of Waianae.

The bill to legalize civil unions between same-sex partners flickered to life yesterday, only to be stalled until 2010 by a coalition of opponents and supporters who said they wanted to make it better.

House Bill 444 had been thought dead for the session because it was stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 3-3 vote, but it was brought back on the Senate floor for debate in a move engineered by Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kaimuki-Palolo).

The bill was pulled from the Judiciary Committee with 10 votes, enough to get it on the floor. Then opponents and Democrats who said they wanted to improve it voted to amend the bill, effectively stalling any more action until next year because the Legislature is set to adjourn today and the bill needs another reading in the Senate and approval in the House.

Ihara pleaded in a last-minute floor speech, “;Don't let this civil-rights bill die this year.”;

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said the bill will not be voted on again this year, meaning it will not be taken up until 2010.

The amendment actually was one suggested by civil-union supporters as a compromise earlier in the session and had been worked on by Hanabusa.

When Ihara told senators yesterday that he had the votes to pull the bill on the floor for a vote, Hanabusa said other senators started circulating the amendment.

Some argued that the amended bill was better because it clarified that “;it is not the Legislature's intent to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage.”;

But others said they wanted to amend the bill to kill it for this year. “;I have a hard time reconciling the statement that the proponents made, that this is for equal rights and civil unions—at the same time this kills it for the session,”; Ihara said after the session.

Michael Golojuch of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays said, “;We're not going to see this again for two years. No one will dare touch it in an election year. This was a dog-and-pony show. What politicians are good at is playing games. They got our hopes up just to have played a game with us.”;

Hawaii Family Forum leader Dennis Arakaki was pessimistic when senators voted to put the bill back on the agenda, saying, “;The biggest damage is to forget what a divisive issue this is, how acrimonious it was in 1998; it will polarize the community once again.”;

Arakaki was elated later, saying, “;Hopefully, the chairs of both Senate and House judiciary committees can come together for common ground. There is justice in the fact that after supporters pulled it out of committee, there was a last-second maneuver to stop it. Things worked out for the good.”;

In the audience was retired Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson, who said passage of the bill “;would repay a debt long overdue. We should have been the first state to pass it.”; Levinson wrote the 1993 court opinion that put the issue into the political fray.

               

     

 

Round 1

        HOW THEY VOTED: The first vote came early yesterday afternoon when 10 senators voted to remove the civil-unions measure from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Nine votes were needed. Fifteen voted no. Here is the breakdown:

       

       

       

                                       

               

               

             

         

       

YES: 10

                Rosalyn Baker

                Suzanne Chun Oakland

                J. Kalani English

                Carol Fukunaga

                Brickwood Galuteria

                Gary Hooser

                Les Ihara

                David Ige

                Michelle Kidani

                Clarence Nishihara

 

               

NO: 15

                Robert Bunda

                Willie Espero

                Mike Gabbard

                Josh Green

                Colleen Hanabusa

                Clayton Hee

                Fred Hemmings

                Donna Mercado Kim

                Russell Kokubun

                Norman Sakamoto

                Sam Slom

                Dwight Takamine

                Brian Taniguchi

                Jill Tokuda

                Shan Tsutsui

       

 

       

       

Round 2

        HOW THEY VOTED: The second vote came several hours later when 16 senators voted to amend the civil- unions measure, which effectively killed it this session. Nine voted no. Here is the breakdown:

       

       

       

                                       

               

               

             

         

       

YES: 16

                Robert Bunda

                Willie Espero

                Mike Gabbard

                Brickwood Galuteria

                Suzanne Chun Oakland

                Colleen Hanabusa

                Fred Hemmings

                Donna Mercado Kim

                Russell Kokubun

                Clarence Nishihara

                Norman Sakamoto

                Sam Slom

                Dwight Takamine

                Brian Taniguchi

                Jill Tokuda

                Shan Tsutsui

 

               

NO: 9

                Rosalyn Baker

                J. Kalani English

                Carol Fukunaga

                Josh Green

                Clayton Hee

                Gary Hooser

                David Ige

                Les Ihara

                Michelle Kidani