Aloha and Happy Saturday, Blenders! There is exciting news out of Hawaii to kick off the weekend. SB232, which establishes Civil Unions, passed its third and final reading yesterday in the Hawaii State House of Representatives by a vote of 31-19.

Usually not at a loss for words, Alan Spector needed a moment to compose himself before reacting to yesterday's vote by the state House of Representatives to legalize civil unions in Hawaii.

Spector was among about two dozen supporters of the civil-unions bill who quietly celebrated in the Capitol courtyard following the House vote — an outcome that was as emotional as it was expected.

“This shows that persistence pays off,” said Spector, co-chairman of Equality Hawaii. “This is a great day for Hawaii.”

The YES votes were Reps. Belatti, Brower, Carroll, Coffman, Evans, Hanohano, Hashem, Herkes, Ichiyama, Ito, Jordan, Keith-Agaran, Chris Lee, Marilyn Lee, Luke, Marumoto, McKelvey, Morikawa, Morita, Nakashima, Nishimoto, Blake Oshiro, Marcus Oshiro, Pono, Rhoads, Saiki, Speaker Say, Takumi, Thielen, Wooley, and Yamashita.

The NO votes were Reps. Aquino, Awana, Chang, Ching, Choy, Cullen, Fontaine, Har, Johanson, Manahan, Mizuno, Pine, Riviere, Souki, Takai, Tokioka, Tsuji, Ward, and Yamane.

Rep. Cabanilla was excused from the final vote.

Because an amendment was added to SB232, it must go back to the Senate for a final vote before going to Gov. Abercrombie's desk. According to Hawaii Pride Alliance's Van Law, “The House made a clarifying amendment per recommendation from the Attorney General's office. It clarifies that state tax laws applies to married couples and civil union couples in the same way. Now the Senate has to vote to accept that change, which the Senate Judiciary Chair has indicated they should without much debate.”

“If everything looks OK, we'll probably just do our vote in the early part of the week,” said Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului).

“There is a commitment” to moving quickly, said Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (D, Downtown-Waikiki), Senate majority leader.

Civil Unions isn't the only bill in play for the LGBT community during this legislative session. HB546 would codify employment nondiscrimination based on gender identity or expression. Currently GI is a protected class in housing and public accomodation. HB546 passed out of the House Committee on Labor, and has yet to be scheduled for a hearing by the Judiciary Committee.

The other bill is SB934, which deals with issues of bullying. The bill was heard on February 9th by the Senate Committee on Education, and passed out of committe by a vote of 5-0, 1 excused. SB934 specifically lists sexual orientation and gender identity in its text.

“Bullying” or “cyberbullying” means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication including but not limited to a communication shown to be motivated by a student's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry or ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical, mental, emotional, or learning disability, gender, gender identity and expression, or other distinguishing personal characteristic…

Congratulations to all those working for equality in Hawaii, including Pride Alliance, Equality Hawaii, Unite Here Local 5, PFLAG, Da Moms, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, the interfaith community, and all those in the a'ina who have come out in support of equal rights.

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