Legislation that would create civil
unions for gay and lesbian couples in the state of Hawaii ran aground
early this morning when a 3-3 vote deadlocked the bill in the Senate
Committee senators listened to
thousands of impassioned pleas from both sides of the issue during a
grueling 18 hour marathon hearing session. The vote, which came at
3AM, only served to prove that none of the lawmakers had been swayed
from their previously known positions.
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 cited 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
Backers of House Bill 444 rallied on
Monday at an event 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,” Rev. Dr. John R. Heidel
told the paper. “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 people.”
But while stranded, the bill is far
from dead. Senate leaders have vowed to rescue the bill.
Over the weekend, Senate leaders began
discussing the possibility of pulling the bill out of committee for a
full vote. A maneuver that by law could not happen until March 10.
“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
Hawaii voters defined marriage as a
heterosexual union in their state constitution eleven years ago.