State House passes civil unions bill in last hours of session


POSTED: Friday, April 30, 2010

The bill to legalize same-sex civil unions passed the state House by a 31-20 vote today in the last hours of the 2010 legislative session.

Despite a crowded gallery, there was no reaction from spectators.

HB 444 now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle, who has not said whether she supports or opposes the measure. If Lingle vetoes the bill, House lawmakers would need 34 votes to override.

The long-stalled House Bill 444 was revived by Majority Leader Blake Oshiro. Unlike a previous vote to postpone action on the bill, House leadership allowed for members to have a roll call vote to show where they stood on the issue.

“;I wish that at the end of this vote here, that the healing process will begin for all,”; Rep. Joe Souki said prior to the vote. He voted against the proposal.

Among the supporters was Republican Rep. Barbara Marumoto. “;I don't believe our society will come crashing down if we pass this bill,”; she said.

HB 444 “;extends the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union.”;

Opponents say the measure amounts to legalizing same-sex marriage, while supporters see it as a civil-rights issue and say the bill only simply extends reciprocal benefits to all who form a civil union. All couples, regardless of gender, would be eligible to enter into a civil union.

Earlier this year, the bill cleared the Senate but stalled in the House where members feared they did not have the votes to override a potential veto. 

This afternoon, Oshiro (D-Aiea-Halawa) offered a motion to recall the measure to the House floor. The move caused House Speaker Calvin Say to immediately call for a recess and both Republicans and Democrats retreated to closed-door caucuses. When lawmakers returned, they voted in favor of debating the measure.

The approval of House Bill 444 followed more than a half hour of floor debate. The results of the roll call vote were announced at 5:09 p.m. It needed 26 votes to pass.