Groups vow protests if civil-unions bill advances


POSTED: Sunday, March 22, 2009

Opponents promise more large public demonstrations if a bill to legalize same-sex unions is brought to the Senate floor for a vote.


“;It will create an uproar in the general public,”; said Dennis Arakaki, interim executive director of Hawaii Family Forum. “;People are upset that this was allowed to happen and to come this far.”;

Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser says he will try to force a vote on the measure if no other senators do so by the end of this year's legislative session in May.

Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau) said he would prefer to have a majority support his effort to bring the bill to a vote of the full Senate.

But he will make the motion on his own even if he does not have a majority.

“;I believe that it (the bill) is the right thing to do. Delaying doing the right thing is not something that has a benefit,”; Hooser said.

House Bill 444, which would give the same rights of married couples to same-sex partnerships, has stalled since a tie vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But it could still be brought before the full Senate under a seldom-used procedure.

Hooser would need nine votes from the 25-member Senate to pull the bill from committee and force a vote on the Senate floor.

“;We had extensive debate. We should simply vote on the issue and let that outcome determine (the bill's fate),”; Hooser said.

Alan Spector, co-chairman of the Family Equality Coalition Hawaii, which supports civil unions, said that he is pleased with Hooser's commitment to the bill.

“;It's unfair to shut this decision down because of three senators (in the committee) that voted against it,”; he said.

But Arakaki said other issues—such as the economy, mental health services and cutbacks in public programs—demand more attention from lawmakers than civil unions.

If made law, the bill would create more legal challenges for child care, equality and education, he said.

Civil unions are supported by President Barack Obama, labor unions and a majority of House representatives, Hooser said.

“;It's the government's responsibility to provide equal protection under the law,”; he said. “;The issue of civil unions is essentially the issue of a contract between two people, and it has no impact on marriage and no impact on the church.

“;It's just simply about equal rights, about equal treatment.”;

Arakaki said if the bill passes the Senate, Hawaii Family Forum will hold more demonstrations to ask Gov. Linda Lingle to veto the bill.

“;We're still a long way from closing session, so we just need vigilance,”; he said.

Hawaii Family Forum organized a rally at the state Capitol opposing civil unions last month which drew several thousand people.

Another demonstration is scheduled for today on Maui where church groups and concerned citizens are gathering across from Queen Kaahumanu Center at 2 p.m.

Tomorrow, people opposed to civil unions will demonstrate on Hooser's home island of Kauai at Kukui Grove Shopping Center at 4 p.m.


Star-Bulletin reporter Rob Shikina contributed to this report.