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

What’s Brewing: Civil unions in Hawaii; drug bust aboard world’s largest gay cruise; Lady Gaga

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Hawaii is set to become the seventh state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, after the House passed the measure Friday. The civil unions bill now returns to the Senate, which has already passed it once and could send it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie as early as this week. Abercrombie’s predecessor, Linda Lingle, vetoed similar legislation last year. But Abercrombie supports the bill.

2. Authorities arrested a suspected drug dealer aboard the Atlantis ship that’s been billed as the world’s largest gay cruise, during a stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steven Barry Krumholz, 51, of West Hollywood, Calif., was arrested after authorities searched his cabin and found more than 142 ecstasy pills, nearly 3 grams of methamphetamine, a small quantity of ketamine and about $51,000 in cash.

3. In case you missed it, Lady Gaga (above) was hatched out of an egg at the beginning of her performance of “Born This Way” on Sunday night at the Grammy Awards. (Video of the performance, at least until it gets pulled, is below.)  For a full list of Grammy winners in major categories, go here.


—  John Wright

Lesbian appointed to Supreme Court in Hawaii as civil unions bill clears Senate committee

Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Gov. Neil Abercrombie

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie named lesbian judge Sabrina Shizue McKenna, 53, to the Hawaiian Supreme Court, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. McKenna is senior judge of Oahu’s Family Court.

In a press release, Abercrombie said:

“This is the most important decision I have made in my career. This appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years. I am completely confident that Judge McKenna’s appointment will be something I’m proud of for the rest of my life.”

Abercrombie was elected in November and McKenna is his first judicial appointment.

Also in Hawaii, a civil union bill, similar to one vetoed by Hawaiian Gov. Linda Lingle last July, passed a Senate committee. Lingle vetoed the bill, calling it same-sex marriage by a different name. Lingle was a Republican. Abercrombie, a Democrat, said he would sign the bill.

Equality Hawaii would like to see the bill extended to address health, insurance and tax codes. The bill was schedule to go to the full Senate today for a reading today and a final action on Friday. A similar bill has not been introduced to the Hawaiian House yet.

The Advertiser reports that Gary Okino, an opponent of civil unions, ran against the bill’s main House sponsor and lost. He wins the asinine reason of the week to be against civil unions award: Okino said civil unions would “rob children of happiness.”

In its reporting of the appointment of McKenna to the bench, the Advertiser called her the first lesbian appointed to the Hawaiian Supreme Court. We’re not sure, but she may be the first open lesbian appointed to a Supreme Court in any state. Anyone know for sure? (For the record, despite the insinuations, no federal Supreme Court justice, whether actually lesbian or not, is openly lesbian. And Justice Souter is officially a bachelor, certainly not openly gay).

—  David Taffet

Hawaii boycott?

Gov. Linda Lingle

After Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill, the San Francisco Chronicle asked the question “Should civil union veto mean Hawaii boycott?”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has prepared the state’s largest industry for the reaction with its warning, “Civil unions backlash begins.”

Most of the blame for the veto has been heaped on Hawaii’s Mormon population. Though just 5 percent of the population, Oahu is home to a branch of Brigham Young University and the church as always been active in Hawaii politics.

The blame, however, should be placed directly on the state’s Jewish Republican governor. Though same-sex marriage is performed in most branches of Judaism, Lingle belongs to the small, right-wing Chabad movement.

The Honolulu newspaper said a boycott wouldn’t hurt people and businesses in the state that support civil unions. More of them should have lobbied the governor to sign. An airline that’s a member of an LGBT Chamber of Commerce could have warned that a boycott might mean fewer flights a week to her state. Large hotel chains that market to the LGBT community could have lobbied the governor to support the bill. Restaurants, stores and other businesses that have relied, in part, on business from the LGBT community might have made more of an effort to let the governor know that discrimination doesn’t create a good environment for travel.

Rabbi Peter Schaktman from the state’s largest synagogue made his opinions clear. Schaktman was a Houston rabbi before moving to Honolulu in 2005.

“People who oppose civil unions from a religious perspective are asking the state to enforce their version of morality on their behalf,” he told the governor.

His synagogue’s website continues to invite same-sex and opposite-sex couples to celebrate their weddings at Temple Emanu-El.

—  David Taffet

HB444: The Mormon veto?

I haven’t yet seen “8: The Mormon Proposition,” but from what I’ve read, the story starts with the LDS church’s involvement in the defeat of same-sex marriage in Hawaii 12 years ago. From The Los Angeles Times:

The documents revealed how, in a 1998 campaign in Hawaii, the Mormon Church helped to stop same-sex marriage through inconspicuous association with other denominations, such as Roman Catholics. The experience laid the groundwork for the Prop. 8 battle, during which many Mormons were encouraged to make donations to the California campaign, some of which, the film contends, were hidden. Consequently, the amount of money the Mormon Church contributed to the campaign was underreported, the movie argues.

Remember, Hawaii has the second-highest concentration of Mormons of any state in the U.S., next to Utah. More than 60,000 Mormons live in Hawaii, or about 5 percent of the overall population. As someone who lived in Utah for three years, I can’t help but wonder how much the church had to do with Gov. Linda Lingle’s decision on Tuesday to veto a civil unions bill. Honolulu Weekly’s Ryan Senaga wondered something similar in his review of the film a few weeks ago:

Perhaps after the final fate of HB444 is determined, a searing, a powerful documentary like “8″ will be made about the journey of that bill. But will it revolve around the bill’s passage into law, or its veto? If it’s about the veto, will we want the world to learn about the insidious steps behind the scenes of its demise and would we want our streets and the faces of certain kamaaina are forever documented as promoting hate?

—  John Wright

Hawaii legislature passes civil unions

Gov. Linda Lingle
Gov. Linda Lingle

The Hawaiian legislature passed civil unions and the bill goes to the governor to sign, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 31-20.

The governor, Linda Lingle, has not said whether or not she will sign the bill into law.

Lingle is Republican but she is also Jewish. While Reform Judaism accepts same-sex marriages (as do many Conservative rabbis) and Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, Lingle belongs to a small Orthodox congregation. Orthodox generally do not recognize same-sex marriages.

If signed into law, the effective date is Jan. 1, 2010 because supporters expected the bill to pass last year. So civil unions would begin immediately.

Lingle has 45 days to sign the bill. The House vote was not enough to override a veto.

The same-sex marriage issue began in Hawaii. In 1993, the state Supreme Court ruled that denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry was discriminatory. The state was poised to pass same-sex marriage when they changed their state constitution.

Other states that allow same-sex civil unions that are supposed to be equivalent to opposite-sex marriage are California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington state. Five states — Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa — and the District of Columbia have marriage equality.

—  David Taffet