Social conservatives in Hawaii held a
large rally Sunday at the State Capitol to protest a bill that would
recognize gay couples with civil unions.
The bill ran aground during last year's
legislative session after over 6,000 anti-gay protesters stormed the
Capitol the Sunday before a key Senate committee vote. The bill
deadlocked on a 3-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The
final tally came after a grueling 18 hour marathon hearing that ended
Six senators voted in favor of pulling
the bill from committee and putting it up for a vote, but the effort
fell short of the 9 votes needed to move the bill. A second effort
just days before the end of the legislative session succeeded in
retrieving the bill. Senators quickly amended the bill to include
both gay and straight couples but the session ended without a vote on
The amended bill needs the approval of
both chambers of the Legislature to move to the governor's desk.
Previously, the House approved the original bill on a 33 to 17 vote.
Opponents of gay rights say they are
determined to keep the bill down as legislators reconvene on
“The polls show that the people don't
want it. This civil unions bill is too close to being a same-sex
marriage bill,” Garrett Hashimoto, chairman of the Hawaii Christian
Coalition, the group sponsoring Sunday's rally, told the Star
Republican Governor Linda Lingle has
remained silent on whether she would sign the bill, but Democratic
leaders concede she likely wouldn't, which puts Democrats in a tight
spot during an election year.
Hawaii House Speaker Calvin Say, a
Democrat from St. Louis Heights, has already said a vote is unlikely
unless the Senate can deliver a veto-proof majority.
“It will be a distraction, because
it's a very emotional issue,” Say told the Honolulu Advertiser.
“You know, people have always said to me in the past that during
an election year you don't want to address these social issues.”
“And that's the political reality
that we all face as elected officials,” he added.
A veto-proof majority in both chambers
remains a viable outcome. Last year, sufficient lawmakers expressed
support for the original bill. And several senators have suggested
they could support the amended version.
However, lawmakers in other states,
including New York and New Jersey, have become increasingly reluctant
to vote in favor of gay rights measures as social conservatives
ratchet up their opposition to gay rights, especially measures that
recognize gay unions.
Early reports estimate thousands of
people dressed in white attended the rally to urge lawmakers to kill
the civil unions bill.