Hawaii Legislature to debate same-sex marriage


Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie

HONOLULU — Two decades after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled it was discriminatory to deny marriage rights to same-sex couple, the state could be the next one to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Fourteen states now recognize same-sex marriage.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, called a special session of the Legislature that begins today to discuss the legislation. The Associated Press reported the legislative hearings are expected to draw heavy crowds, with an opposition rally planned Monday night.

Political observers say Abercrombie wouldn’t have called the Legislature back into special session if he wasn’t assured the legislation would pass. Hawaii has only eight Republican legislators, seven in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate.

After the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling, a conservative backlash ended with a constitutional amendment in 1998 that limited the right to marry to heterosexual couples. The tide began to turn after Abercrombie was elected in 2010, and he signed a same-sex civil union bill into law in 2011 and has been a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage.

The debate over same-sex marriage has long divided the Aloha State, and the special session has generated rival demonstrations. Supporters organized an “All You Need Is Love” rally Sunday, and opponents will stage a “Let The People Decide” rally Monday night, AP reported.

—  Steve Ramos

3 states vie to become next with marriage equality


Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The governor said he would call a special session to consider a marriage equality bill.

No, not Rick Perry, and no, not in Texas.

The governor is Neil Abercrombie and the state is Hawaii, where the idea of marriage equality began two decades ago and special sessions are called for constructive purposes. Abercrombie announced his intentions on his blog yesterday and posted the draft of the bill.

Hawaii currently has civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits as marriage on a state level but, since the Defense of Marriage Act ruling in June, are not equal on a federal level.

Baehr v. Lewin was filed in 1991 and the state Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Hawaiian constitution. A state law prohibiting same-sex marriage passed in 1994. That was found unconstitutional in 1996 but a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman passed in 1998.

In 2009, the first civil union bill passed in Hawaii. The Republican governor vetoed it. After Abercrombie, a Democrat, was elected in 2011, it passed again and he signed it. Now Hawaii may become the next marriage equality state.

That is, if New Mexico doesn’t beat them to it. Six New Mexico counties have started issuing marriage licenses in the last week, but yesterday, all 33 county clerks asked the state Supreme Court for a statewide ruling.

And in Illinois, where a marriage equality bill has been languishing since the beginning of the year, the American Civil Liberties Union hired former state Republican chair Pat Brady to lobby Republican legislators. Brady was forced from his position because of his pro-equality stance. The bill has already passed the state Senate and needs to pass in the House. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign the bill.

—  David Taffet

Marriage battle heating up again in Hawaii

Hawaii's civil unions law, signed last February by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, is set to take effect Jan. 1. But a lesbian couple in Hawaii filed a federal suit this week demanding the right to be legally married in the state.

When most people think about legal same-sex marriages in the United States, they probably think first of Massachusetts, the state that in 2003 became the first to legalize same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court ruled, in the case Goodridge v. The Department of Public Health, that the state had “no constitutionally adequate reasoning for denying marriage to same-sex couples.” The majority opinion in that case, written by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, also declared that marriage “is not a privilege conferred by the state but a fundamental right that is protected against state interference.”

Since then, five more states — Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York — plus the District of Columbia, the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon and the Suquamish Indian Tribe in Washington State — have legalized same-sex marriage as well, either through a legislative vote or judicial ruling. Of course, the federal government still refuses to recognize same-sex marriage thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, and 28 states — including Texas — have constitutional amendments banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

And most people know all about the battle over marriage equality in California: First the California Supreme Court said banning gay marriage was unconstitutional. Then months later the voters approved a constitutional amendment — Proposition 8 — banning gay marriage. Then a federal district court said Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution, and now that ruling is on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, with a ruling there possibly coming down at any time now.

Most people know all that.

But what a lot of people might not remember — maybe they never knew — is that the battle over marriage equality began in Hawaii way, way back in 1993, after some same-sex couples sued the state when they were refused marriage licenses, and the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled that the state was discriminating by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1998 allowing legislators to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, and marriage equality supporters spent the next 13 years trying to get civil unions legalized. That finally happened in February of this year when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a civil unions bill into law.

That law is set to take effect on Jan. 1.

Now this week, the battle heats up again: Natasha N. Jackson and Janin Kleid on Wednesday, Dec. 7, filed suit in U.S. District Court against Abercrombie, a Democrat, and the Hawaii Department of Health, after the state refused to grant them a marriage license, according to this story by On Top Magazine.

The two women said in their suit that by denying their marriage license application on Nov. 18, the state had violated their 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.

Abercrombie said that if the two want to “pursue that through legal channels, that’s fine. But I work through the legislative channels.” The governor also said he believes most people in the state are “very, very happy” with the civil union law taking effect next month, and that “I am very pleased with where we are, where we’re going and where we’re headed.”

—  admin

WATCH: Deborah Vial’s ‘Don’t Make Me Take It’

Although Dallas used to be her stomping grounds, singer Deborah Vial now calls Hawaii home. But every so often, she comes back — like this Saturday where she hosts a CD release party for her new album Stages and Stones as well as being instrumental in the reunion of Jane Doe.

Israel Luna continues his tales from the darkside with this dark, twisted take on Vial’s bluesy track. I don’t think we’ve seen Vial like this before. Here, she’s the kinda gal you don’t take home to mom. Instead, maybe the asylum. Check it.

—  Rich Lopez

Hawaii Senate Says YES To Civil Unions, Putting Them Just 1 Governor’s Signature Away


Following in the footsteps of the House, Hawaii's State Senate today approved a civil unions bill in a 18-5 vote, sending it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk, where he will sign it. And so ends the reign that ex-Gov. Linda Lingle held in the state, vetoing the matter last year. When Abercrombie signs it, the bill will become law and take effect Jan. 1, 2012. (NB: In other gay news from the Hawaii Senate, lesbian Sabrina McKenna was confirmed as a State Supreme Court justice.)

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—  David Taffet

Hawaii Senate Confirms Out Lesbian as Supreme Court Justice

Today was an amazing day for equality in the Aloha State.  Not only did the civil unions legislation pass the legislature and head to Gov. Abercrombie for his signature, but openly gay judge Sabrina Shizue McKenna was confirmed as an Associate Justice to the state’s highest court.  She becomes the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court and the second out lesbian supreme court justice in the U.S.  The appointment to the position spans 10 years and will give McKenna the opportunity to make her mark on the bench.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the appointment the most important decision in his career, and said the “appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years.  I’m completely confident that Judge McKenna’s appointment will be something I’m proud of for the rest of my life.”  Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee, gave impassioned remarks on the floor of the Senate and his colleagues confirmed McKenna unanimously, including the sole Republican in the chamber, Sam Slom, who also spoke well of the nominee.

I was honored to be in the chamber for both the civil unions vote and Judge McKenna’s confirmation, and to share such a momentous day with my friends and colleagues here in Hawaii.  It’s been a long time on this road to equality, but we’re finally making substantial gains in the state where the marriage battle began nearly two decades ago.

Judge Sabrina McKenna, 53, the senior judge of Oahu’s Family Court at the Kapolei courthouse, was a state judge in circuit and district courts for 17 years.  She is partnered to Denise Yamashiro and has three children between the ages of 8-14.  McKenna, born and raised in Japan, attended the University of Hawaii-Manoa for undergraduate studies and law school.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Hawaii soon to be more civil, united

140State Senate just voted 18-5 to give final legislative approval to civil unions. It now goes to Gov. Abercrombie, who has announced plans to sign:

Lambda Legal Applauds Final Legislative Approval of Hawai`i Civil Union Bill [Lambda Legal]

Good As You

—  David Taffet

HAWAII: Civil Unions Bill Passes Final Hurdle, Passes To Desk Of Governor

Just in from Equality Hawaii!

Equality Hawaii, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, today applauded the Hawaii legislature for approving civil unions for the second time in ten months. The bill, which was passed in its amended form today by the Hawaii Senate on an 18-5 vote, now heads to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature. “We honor and thank the legislature today for their commitment to equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Hawaii, said Alan Spector, co-chair of Equality Hawaii. “For the second time in less than a year, legislators have dedicated themselves to providing dignity and respect to all families in the Aloha State.”

Congratulations Hawaii! Linda Lingle can SUCK IT.

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

Updates from California and Hawaii

The California Supreme Court justices announced today that they will be issuing an opinion on whether YesOn8.com, the group that successfully pushed for Proposition 8 amending the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage there, has standing to appeal Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

That announcement further delays the 9th Court of Appeals’ consideration of the appeal in the case that could ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Further west, news coming out of Hawaii was much more positive, as a bill creating civil unions for same-sex couples  cleared its final legislative hurdle and is headed to the governor’s desk.

Although Republican then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed essentially the same bill last July. But current Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it into law.

—  admin

Final passage of Hawaii civil unions bill delayed, expected today

Out of “an abundance of caution,” the Hawaii Senate is delaying the final vote for civil unions until Wednesday.

The Senate was poised Tuesday to pass civil unions legislation and send the bill to the governor for his signature, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee proposed the delay to make sure there was adequate public notice after the bill reached the Senate.

The measure had passed the House on Friday.

Hee called for the delay out of “an abundance of caution,” although he said he believed the two-day notice period had already passed.

If the bill is signed into law, as expected, then Hawaii will become the seventh state to grant same sex couples essentially the same rights of marriage without authorizing marriage itself.

Sure, I would rather it be gay marriage, but I’m going to celebrate passage of this bill into state law with the understanding that every time we move a step closer we are that much nearer to realizing “The Big Kahuna,” or full marriage equality. Our enemies know this, as well, and it is why they gnash their teeth, and howl, every time another state approves gay civil unions.


—  David Taffet