Hawaii senators who had vowed to rescue
a stranded gay civil unions bill from a deadlocked committee and pass
it this legislative session have begun to backpeddle.
House Bill 444, which would grant gay
and lesbian couples all the rights of marriage, was marooned on
February 25 when it deadlocked on a 3-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary
Committee. The final tally came after a grueling 18 hour marathon
hearing session that ended at 3AM.
Even before the votes were in Senate
leaders had begun discussing the possibility of rescuing the bill out
of committee for a full vote on the Senate floor. The bill sailed
through the House on a 33 to 17 vote.
“Pulling something from committee is
an extraordinary situation,” state Senate Majority Leader Gary
Hooser said two weeks ago. “However, we have the ability to do
that in the rules for extraordinary situations.”
Honolulu Advertiser quotes Hooser as saying he believes he has
the supermajority in the Senate needed to override a veto by the
governor, if needed.
“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 leaders must wait 10 days before
initiating such a plan, and have till the end of the legislative
session to consider it. Tuesday is the first day they could act on a
But over the weekend, senators started
voicing their concerns over such a maneuver. Senate leaders now say
they are looking to increase the number of votes needed to save the
bill from one-third to half of the Senate chamber.
And one senator has floated the idea of
diluting the bill to counter the notion that they are sanctioning gay
Democratic Senator Will Espero has
suggested amending the bill to strip it of adoption and other
A massive anti-gay show of force
leading up to and during the committee proceedings appears to have
given senators pause to reconsider. The majority of testimony heard
at the hearing was against the bill.
A 6,000-strong crowd of protesters
attended a church-backed rally held at the Capitol the Sunday before
the committee convened. Participants wore red to symbolize the blood
of Jesus Christ and cited Scripture as reason for their opposition to
civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
On Saturday, 2,000 supporters of the
gay civil unions bill held a candlelight vigil in downtown Honolulu,
hoping to keep the bill alive this legislative session.
“[W]e certainly need the rights
because gay couples have families and kids and when something goes
wrong, like for everyone else, the law is there to support them,”
Lino Laure, of the Family Equality Coalition, told ABC affiliate
“I'm hopeful in the end, the majority
can come together and reach a consensus,” Hooser told The