Hawaii

Can Hawaii Legislators Get Out of Civil Unions Deadlock?

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The Democrats who want to pass the same-sex civil union bill certainly hope so.

House Bill 444 gives gay men and women all the rights of marriage without the golden word, but even getting that much has led to a stand-off inside the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For the Senate Democrats, the issue is whether they have enough votes to either pull the bill from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is deadlocked 3-3, or fashion a compromise by amending the bill in committee. An amended bill would require passage by the Senate, sending it back to the House for either approval or a conference committee later this spring.

“First we have to see if there is consensus to have the bill amended,” said Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.

Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) noted that there are discussions among several Democrats about amending the bill, and the talk of amending the bill means that support for the encompassing civil union language in HB 444 is waning.

“If people are asking for amendments, it may mean there is not the support for the original bill,” Hanabusa said.

Meanwhile, gay rights supporters — even religious ones! — are using the break in decision making to make headlines.

While senators were planning their strategy inside the state Capitol yesterday, a new group, Family Equality Coalition, held a news conference outside the Capitol to lobby for HB 444.

The group is an ecumenical coalition of Christian, Buddhist and Jewish religious leaders who said the issue was one of civil rights and social justice.

“We gather here in response to the attempts of a vocal religious minority to derail civil unions,” the leaders said in a statement.

Speaking for the group, Rabbi Peter Schaktman of Temple Emanu-El said partnerships in a family life benefit society.

“Family life is strengthened when a strong, publicly validated commitment exists between the heads of a household.

“Please do not use the religion as a weapon to reinforce bigotry and diminish democracy in our rainbow state,” Schaktman said.

[Honolulu Star-Bulletin]