Hawaii Senate passes civil-unions bill with veto-proof majority, 18-7
The state Senate today passed a civil-unions bill, sending a strong message to the state House and Gov. Linda Lingle with a veto-proof majority vote.
The vote was 18 to 7. The Senate rejected an amendment to change the effective date of the bill, which is Jan. 1, 2010.
The bill would allow same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law.
The state House passed a civil-unions bill last session that would only apply to same-sex couples. House leaders have said they would wait and see what the Senate vote was before deciding whether to move forward on the Senate version of the bill.
An overflow crowd filled the Senate gallery for the debate, with many supporters of the bill wearing rainbow colored lei and many opponents dressed in white T-shirts.
Several senators described the bill as a step toward equality for same-sex couples.
"For me, it is about equal treatment," said state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, D-5th (S. Maui, W. Maui).
State Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Kahala, Hawaii Kai), described the entire bill as an "inadvertent error" that was more about state money and benefits than civil rights.
"I don't view it as civil rights," he said. "I view it at best as civil license."
State House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Pälolo Valley,
Wilhelmina Rise), said majority Democrats will likely meet on Monday in
private caucus to decide how to proceed.
Say said one of the factors will be whether the House can muster a
two-thirds' majority -- 34 of 51 lawmakers -- to override a veto. The House
voted 33 to 17 last session on civil unions, with one lawmaker absent.
Say described the vote count now as close.
Say, who supports civil unions, said he would recommend that the House not
attempt to address a technical flaw in the Senate version and decide simply
whether to send the bill to the governor.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a Republican who opposes civil unions, said the
Senate vote was at odds with the people of the state.
"Instead of redefining the institution of marriage, legislators should be focused on improving public education and balancing the state budget," he said in a statement.
“Like other movements across the country, voters will have the final say on