The author of Hawaii's civil unions
bill, House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, is openly gay.
The bill that grants both gay and
straight couples all the rights and obligations of marriage was left
for dead last January when lawmakers voted to shelve it after
senators had overwhelmingly approved the measure, but on the last day
of the legislative session Oshiro made a motion to bring it back.
Representatives voted last month to
approve the measure in a 31-to-20 vote, just 3 votes shy of a
veto-proof majority. A vote 40-year-old Oshiro called
The measure is now on Republican
Governor Linda Lingle's desk. Lingle has not said whether she'll
sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her
signature, but she has previously chided lawmakers for not focusing
on economic issues. While she officially has 45 days to decide,
she'll need to make up her mind by June 22. That's the day she'll
inform lawmakers about which bills she is planning to reject.
When asked if being gay influenced his
decision to press for civil unions for gay couples, Oshiro, who
rarely speaks to the media about his sexual orientation, told local
ABC affiliate KITV: “Not too much. I've always just been a strong
supporter. And it's an issue that's been around since 2000.”
Oshiro, a Democrat, knew that rescuing
the marooned bill could hurt his political career in a state that
remains conservative on gay rights. He is preparing for a difficult
campaign to keep his job. He'll face Honolulu Councilman Gary H.
Okino, a social conservative and outspoken opponent of the civil
unions bill, in the fall. Okino and his supporters are certain to
make the legislation an issue during the campaign.