Sometimes amid all the hate and bigotry there are moments of love. This is one such moment. Hawaii’s Senate has passed a measure (Senate Bill 232 or SB232) which legalizes same-sex unions in the state. Governor Neil Abercrombie has announced he will sign it into law, making good an earlier promise.
A similar measure was put forward in 2010 (Hawaii House Bill 444 or HB444). It passed the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Senate but was vetoed by former Governor Linda Lingle in July of that year. Lingle said the bill needed to be put to a referendum, another case of an abuse of democracy, using a majority to deprive a minority of their rights. Fortunately, Abercrombie is a different sort. A better sort.
Senate Bill 232 was passed on January 26, 2011 by the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on a 3-2 vote, and passed by the full state senate 19-6 on January 28. There was a modification made to the bill in the House of Representatives which then passed it on a vote of 31-19 on February 11th. The Senate passed it on February 16.
This bill “extends the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union” and it will take effect on January 1, 2012. Governor Abercrombie has 10 days to sign it.
“I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha.
“I appreciate all the time and effort invested by those who shared their thoughts and concerns regarding civil unions in Hawaii. This has been an emotional process for everyone involved, but that process is now ended. Everyone has been heard; all points of view respected.”
“For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii,” Abercrombie said.
There are now five states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire - plus the District of Columbia, which will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Hawaii doesn’t go quite as far as that, but it will join New Jersey in allowing civil unions. California would have made six, but same-sex marriages were legal there only for six months in 2008 before Proposition 8 overturned the California Supreme Court’s decision – probably the motivating factor for Governor Lingle’s call for a referendum.
In addition, three states – Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island – will recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Republicans and Christofascists seem determined to deny basic civil rights to the LGBT community, but they are increasingly on the wrong side of history as a groundswell of opinion shows increasing support for those rights.
California recognizes same-sex marriages performed during six months in 2008 after its Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to marry (May 15, 2008) and before the passage of Proposition 8 (Nov. 4, 2008), which overturned the court’s decision. On August 4, 2010, Proposition 8 was itself struck down by a federal district judge, who ruled that the same-sex marriage ban in Proposition 8 violated the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. That decision has not been enforced pending appeal. Same-sex marriages performed while they were legal remain legal.