Lawmakers in the Hawaii House declined
to vote Friday on a bill that would have recognized gay and lesbian
couples with civil unions, the AP reported. The bill would have
granted gay and lesbian couples all the rights and obligations of
The action effectively shelves the
proposal indefinitely. Supporters sitting in the gallery shouted,
“Shame on you!” Opponents cheered the decision.
Last week, the Hawaii Senate approved
the bill with a veto-proof 18 to 7 vote, giving activists hope the
measure would become law despite the disapproval of Republican
Governor Linda Lingle, who has chided lawmakers for not focusing on
“It's an election year, and they're
more concerned about keeping their seats than doing what's right,”
Stephen Nagle, a supporter of the bill, told the news service.
“We're sorely disappointed that the
Hawaii State House refused to take action on the civil unions bill,”
Tambry Young, co-chair of Equality Hawaii, a group that lobbied for
passage of the bill, said in a statement. “Today, the House put
its own political interests before the interests of Hawaii's families
and that's bad policy and bad politics. We pledge that his fight is
not over, and we will continue in our efforts to see true equality in
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights advocate, called the
“We're stunned that the Hawaii State
House would act contrary to their previous position of strongly
supporting this bill,” he said.
The events of the past week are a
reversal of last year's drama, which included quick passage in the
House, followed by a sudden stall in the Senate. A key Senate panel
deadlocked on a 3-3 vote, marooning the bill. But in their second
attempt, Senators managed to fish the bill out of the committee
during the final days of the legislative session. Senators quickly
amended the bill to include both gay and straight couples, but the
session ended without a vote on the measure.
During Friday's House vote no roll call
was taken, effectively shielding the identities of who voted for or
against the bill.
House Speaker Calvin Say denied claims
by civil unions supporters that the anonymous vote was “cowardly.”
“You can call me a coward, but we are
all not cowards. We'll make our tough decisions as we go ahead. But
members were concerned, and that was my role as the speaker to make
that determination and decision to do what we did today,” Say said.
Members might have been spooked by
recent events in New Jersey and New York. Senators in both states
have been targeted by both opponents and supporters of gay rights
after each chamber killed a gay marriage bill late last year.
Hawaii was the first state to approve a
gay marriage ban in 1998 after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in
favor of gay marriage.