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Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii

2013-OCT-28 to 31:
Estimates of the votes in the Senate and House.
Senate committee and full Senate pass bill SB1.
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This is a continuation from a previous essay

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2013-OCT-28: Current estimate of the votes in the Legislature for SB1:

Hawaii News Now 1 estimated the current support for the bill to legalize same-sex marriage as:

  • Senate
    • Number of Senators: 25
    • Required votes to pass SB1: 13
    • Composition of the Senate: 24 Democrats. 1 Republican
    • Expected vote: Approximately 21 in favor, 4 opposed.

  • House:
    • Number of Representatives: 51
    • Required votes to pass SB1: 26
    • Composition of the House: 44 Democrats. 7 Republican
    • Current leaning:
      • 27 in favor (26 Democrats & 1 Republican)
      • 17 opposed (11 Democrats & 6 Republicans)
      • 7 undecided or unknown (All are Democrats)
      • Expected vote: Approximately 31 in favor, 20 opposed.

  • The eventual outcomes:
    • Senate Committee passed the bill, 5 to 2.
    • Full Senate vote on the unamended version of the bill: 20 in favor; 4 opposed; 1 absent due to a death in the family.

    • House Committees' vote, after amendments:
      • Judiciary Committee passed the bill 8 to 5.
      • Finance Committee passed the bill 10 to 7.
    • Full House vote: 30 in favor; 19 opposed; 2 absent

  • The amended bill has been sent to the Senate.

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2013-OCT-28: Senate Judicial Committee: testimony and vote:

About 1,800 people had signed up to testify before the committee about their personal beliefs concerning the SB1 bill. Each was given a maximum of two minutes to speak. This was later reduced to one minute. The activity was broadcast over TV channels and local news web sites. Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee (D) said that of the 4.000 pages of written testimony submitted, about 60% opposed the bill and/or the special session, while the rest favored the bill.

Chad Blair and Nathan Eagle, writing for the Honolulu Civil Beat, said:

"After nearly 12 hours of passionate, repetitive, sometimes heated and often ill-informed testimony, the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee passed a same-sex marriage bill late Monday. ... The testifiers largely fell into two groups: those who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds and want a constitutional amendment question on the ballot, and those who support same-sex marriage and argued that the fundamental issue of civil rights is not one that needs to be decided by a popular vote. On balance, opponents appeared to heavily outnumber supporters. ... Some of the testimony from opponents of SB1 seemed to have little basis in fact. Many said that the bill was being pushed on Hawaii by outsiders, and that if passed it would somehow harm Native Hawaiians. ... Another testifier linked gay marriage supporters to Nazi Germany, stating that a minority was trying to exert their view over a silent majority. (There was no mention of the fact that homosexuals were, in many cases, persecuted and killed in Nazi death camps.) Others warned that the Department of Education would somehow change its curriculum in response to gay marriage in such a way that children would be endangered. And still others said only a man and woman can procreate.

The Committee vote on Senate Bill 1 was 5-2, with Senators Mike Gabbard (D) and Sam Slom (R) in the minority." 2

Committee chairperson Senator Clayton Hee said:

"This measure represents the Committee's best effort to balance the interests of supporters and opponents of this issue. The Senate's bill preserves religious freedoms and ensures that the rights of all Americans are preserved as enshrined in the United States and Hawaii Constitutions."

If passed in its original form, it would guarantee two types of religious freedom:

  • Conservative faith groups would continue to have the religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them.

  • Liberal/progressive faith groups would, for the first time, have the religious freedom to marry same-sex couples in accordance with their religious and ethical beliefs.

The bill was forwarded to the full Senate for a vote on Wednesday, OCT-30. SB1 was expected to easily pass.

Drew Campbell posted a comment to an article in Aljazeera America which comments about the desire by some conservatives to abandon SB1 and hold a public plebiscite instead. He wrote about what has often been called "the tyranny of the majority," which was a serious concern by America's founding fathers.

"As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, 'the great danger in republics is that the majority will not respect the rights of minority.' In his first inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson said, 'All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.'

Our nation's founders understood that minority rights must be protected, and that is why the Constitution guarantees independent judicial protection of rights. You don't put minority rights up for a vote by the majority -- otherwise we'd still have segregation and interracial marriage would still be illegal in some states.

Allowing same-sex couples [to marry] in NO way affects the rights of the majority; it only protects the rights of those who have been oppressed for far too long." 3

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2013-OCT-29: Republican power play fails:

As noted previously, only one of the seven Republicans in the House intend to vote in favor of SB1. She is Representative Cynthia Thielen, a long-time member of the House Judiciary Committee -- one of two committees of the House which will consider the bill during the special session. Representative Bob McDermott, a conservative Republican, introduced an unusual resolution to remove Thielen from the committee against her will and replace her with Rep. Richard Fale, a socially conservative Republican who would be certain to oppose the bill. The debate was heated. At one point, Speaker Joe Souki (D) called a recess to allow tempers to cool. The resolution to remove Thielen was defeated. 4 Still, the exercise showed what can happen if a legislator follows their conscience and risks deviating from their party's position.

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2013-OCT-30: Full Senate debates and passes bill SB1:

Senator Sam Slom (R), the only Republican in the Senate, said:

"We are the plantation here… We have more unholy alliances between businesses and government than any other state."

Senator Rosalyn Baker (D) commented:

"I’ve seen discrimination up close. ... You simply don’t put rights on the ballot. ... Minorities don’t ever get their rights that way."

She is in error. One good example when the LGBT community achieved equality in three states on election day in early 2012-NOV. Voters passed three state plebiscites to bring same-sex marriage to Maine, Maryland, and Washington State.

Sen. Baker quoted the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the main driving forces behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places."

Senator Clayton Hee (D) said:

"This is a defining moment in all of our careers, and we should embrace it. There should be no legal distinction between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples under the laws of this state. ... I ask you to expand the meaning of the word 'aloha' to truly include everyone."

"Aloha" is a Hawaiian word that variously means love, respect, compassion, togetherness, peace, good bye, hello, etc.

The full Senate approved the same-sex marriage bill with a vote of 20 to 4. One supporter of SB1 was absent because of a family emergency. The vote is close to the 21 to 4 result that some commentators had predicted.

Senator Slom (R) joined with three Democrats in opposition to the bill. The remaining Democrats voted in favor of SB1. 5,6

SB1 was then forwarded to the House Judiciary and Finance Committees who held a joint session starting on Thursday, OCT-31 -- Halloween. So far, there have been no amendments to the bill.

The Star-Advertiser commented:

"House Majority Leader Scott Saiki says it's likely the chamber will amend the bill to change religious exemptions. The Senate bill currently exempts ministers and other clergy from having to perform gay wedding ceremonies, but not for-profit businesses.

'The House committees recognize that there is still a lot of public concern about the scope of the exemptions,' Saiki said." 7

If the House makes an amendment and later passes the bill, SB1 will have to return to the Senate, at least briefly, for final passage, before it is sent to Governor Abercrombie to be signed into law or vetoed.

Testimony in the joint meetings of the House Judiciary and Finance Committees lasted into the evening of Thursday, OCT-31 until midnight. It was resumed on Friday morning.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mileka Lincoln, "House has votes to pass same-sex marriage bill, some lawmakers still undecided," Hawaii News Now, 2013-OCT-28, at: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/
  2. Chad Blair & Nathan Eagle, "Hawaii Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate Panel," Honolulu Civil Beat, 2013-OCT-29, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  3. Massoud Hayoun, "Hawaii governor expects gay marriage bill to pass 'within week'," Aljazeera America, 2013-OCT-28, at: http://america.aljazeera.com/
  4. Mileka Lincoln, "GOP House infighting over same-sex marriage bill," Hawaii News Now, 2013-OCT-29, at: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/
  5. David Badash, "Hawaii Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2013-OCT-30, at: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  6. Oskar Garcia, "Hawaii state Senate passes gay marriage bill, sending special session measure to House," Associated Press, 2013-OCT-30, at: http://www.therepublic.com/
  7. "State Senate passes gay marriage bill, sending it to the House," Star-Advertiser, 2013-OCT-30, at: http://www.staradvertiser.com/

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Copyright ©2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-OCT-28
Latest update: 2013-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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