Supporters Rally to Revive Civil Unions Bill
Supporters of House Bill 444, or the “civil unions bill,” are not ready to give up. While Tuesday, May 5 Thursday, May 7 is the effective deadline for any last-minute action on the stalled bill, late signals from the Senate offer a glimmer of hope.
HB444, which offers same-sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil unions that convey all the rights and benefits of marriage, was unanimously approved by the House Judiciary Committee in February, and was then passed by the full House of Representatives 33-17. But once it reached the Senate, it stalled in the Judiciary and Government Operations Committee. After a marathon 18-hour hearing (which included some astonishing claims), the committee was deadlocked 3-3 on the measure.
An attempt by the full Senate to recall the bill from the committee also failed, and for many, March 25 was the day HB444 died.
But the legislative session doesn’t adjourn until Thursday, and as some have noted, that means there’s still a chance to recall the bill and bring HB444 to a full vote in the Senate. And late Monday, Sen. Les Ihara (D – Kaimuki, Palolo) said he and Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D – Manoa, McCully, Makiki) are open to the possibility.
“Senator Taniguchi has said that he will support a vote on HB444 if enough senators want to have the vote,” Sen. Ihara wrote in an e-mail to constituents. “I think that means 12 senators — a majority of the democratic caucus. I told him that I would make a motion to recall HB444 only if there are enough
votes for it to pass; that means nine votes.”
“Due to internal politics in the senate, I need to be sensitive to all senators, but I believe I must do what I can to encourage in the strongest terms that you and others take action to support having a vote on HB444,” he wrote. “If you support ending discrimination for the minority gay community, please do what you can to help.”
“I’m going out on a limb here,” he concluded, encouraging people to forward his e-mail to others.
According to Sen. Ihara, this latest discussion of another recall attempt included the circulation of an Associated Press analysis of how the civil unions bill debate played out (PDF) in the Capitol. The Mark Niesse piece, which was not published in either of the state’s two major daily newspapers, examines the “political soap opera” behind HB444, and asks, “How else could 18 of 25 senators claim to support civil unions but only six record ‘yes’ votes in public?”
Ihara outlines some of the ways supporters of civil unions can have their voices heard: