A gay civil union bill is proving that
the issue remains volcanic in the state of Hawaii eleven years after
voters agreed overwhelmingly (70%) to ban gay marriage in their state
Ten days after the Hawaii House
approved legislation that would create civil unions for gay and
lesbian couples in the state, the Senate will take up the issue.
Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on House Bill 444 begin tomorrow.
Opponents of the bill headed to the
Hawaii State Capitol on Sunday to rally against the bill. Thousands
attended a church-backed rally where speakers citied Scripture as
reason for their opposition to civil unions for gay and lesbian
couples. Participants wore red to symbolize the blood of Jesus
Christ and opposition to the bill, Dennis Arakaki, interim executive
director of the Hawaii Family Forum, told the Honolulu Star
“We don't want gay marriage as
according to the scripture of God,” Johnathan Dana, who was
attending the rally, told KGMB9 News. “God made man and woman to
be husband and wife, not man and man and woman and woman.”
Backers of gay civil unions have
scheduled their own rally for this morning. It is being organized by
the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, whose membership includes Christian,
Jewish and Buddhist churches.
“We support civil rights, social
justice and the dignity of all people,” said the Rev. Dr. John R.
Heidel. “We basically see this not as a religious issue but as a
civil-rights issue, and so we're working for equal rights of all
But even before the committee opens,
the bill appears comatose, and Senate leaders are discussing
“extraordinary” measures to revive it.
Committee approval hinged on a single
undecided voter: State Senator Robert Bunda. Bunda, a Democrat from
North Shore, recently said he would oppose the measure. His no vote
would effectively deadlock the bill at 3-3.
“I think for us in Hawaii,
traditional marriage is still the majority sentiment,” he told the
Honolulu Advertiser. “And that's how I have come to the
conclusion that I have.”
Bunda, who is considering a run for
lieutenant governor in 2010, has become the focal point of an intense
lobbying effort from both sides of the issue.
He said he has received more than 1,400
e-mails, the majority urging him to vote against the bill.
Over the weekend, however, Senate
leaders began discussing the possibility of pulling the bill out of
committee for a full vote.
“Pulling something from committee is
an extraordinary situation,” state Senate Majority Leader Gary
Hooser said. “However, we have the ability to do that in the rules
for extraordinary situations.”
The Honolulu Advertiser quotes
Hooser as saying he believes he has the supermajority in the Senate
needed to overcome a veto.
“I fundamentally believe that it's
the right thing to do,” he told the paper. “This is an issue of
civil rights and equal rights. It's about treating people equally.
It's about contracts under law. This is not legalizing same-sex
Senate committee hearing on House Bill
444 begin Tuesday, February 24 at 9AM at the state capitol.