Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hawaii Considers Same-sex Legislation

Hawaii, the state that adopted the nation's first "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment a decade ago, has now become the latest battleground in the fight for same-sex civil unions.

-- From "Hawaii is latest civil unions battleground" by Mark Niesse, Associated Press 2/22/09

It would become the fifth state to legalize the alternative to gay marriage if the Democrat-dominated Legislature and Republican governor approve a civil union law. The measure was passed by the state House this month but it now faces the Senate, where a divided committee is to vote Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has declined to comment on the issue and it's unclear whether she would veto the bill.

. . . the House Judiciary Committee passed the measure by a 12-0 vote, and the full House approved it 33-17, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a potential veto.

In 1998, nearly 70 percent of Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment granting the state Legislature the power to reserve marriage for opposite-sex couples. The "defense of marriage" amendment, now in more than half of state constitutions, resulted in a law banning gay marriage in Hawaii but left the door open for civil unions.

Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage, while Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire allow civil unions. Californians voted in November to overturn a court ruling that allowed gay marriage, but the state still offers domestic partnerships that guarantee the same rights as marriage.

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