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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

2009-FEB: Bill HB 444 passes the
House, refused by the Senate, dies.

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HB 444 approved by the House:

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved bill HB 444 on 2009-FEB-05 by a vote of 12 to 0. It then passed to the full House for a debate and vote.

The House representatives passed the bill overwhelmingly with a vote of 33 (65%) in favor, 17 opposed and 1 "excused." 1 The latter is Rep. K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Newtown, Waiau, Pearl City). He was preparing to deploy with the Hawai'i Army National Guard to Kuwait and is known to supports civil unions. 2

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Some reactions:

bulletState House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, D-33rd ('Aiea, Halawa Valley, 'Aiea Heights), the bill's sponsor, said:

"There will be a day when acceptance, tolerance, equity and justice are not just words, but they will be truly embodied by our actions. So let that day come closer. And let that day be today."

bulletState Rep. Sylvia Luke, D-26th (Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl), complimented state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, D-41st (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele), the chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, for moving the bill out of his committee; previous chairpersons, including herself, did not. She said:

"I feel kind of ashamed that we've closed our eyes to the discrimination that has gone on."

bulletState Rep. Gene Ward, R-17th (Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawai'i Kai), opposed the bill. He said that civil unions are just the first step. He said:

"This bill is not about equality, it's about an end run for same-sex marriage."

bulletState House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Lower Pearlridge, 'Aiea, Halawa), also voted against the bill because of a desire to protect the restriction of marriage to one man and one woman. 2

Citizen Link, a news service from the fundamentalist Christian agency Focus on the Family Action quoted Caleb Price, a research analyst at Focus on the Family:

"This is yet another example of the incremental approach gay activists are employing to achieve their goal of redefining gender, marriage, and the family. Most Hawaiians are likely unaware of the long-term consequences if this bill passes. The definition of marriage will be watered down and eventually changed." 3

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HB 444 received by the Senate:

Bill HB 444 was received by the Senate on 2009 FEB-13 and passed the routine first reading. 1

According to Derrick DePledge of the Honolulu Advertiser:

"State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), said yesterday she believes there are enough votes in the Senate for civil unions if the bill moves out of the Senate Judiciary and Government Operations Committee. The committee is currently divided 3-2 in favor of civil unions, with state Sen. Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), undecided."

"Hanabusa said she would consider forcing the bill out if it fails in committee. A one-third vote of the Senate would be required to recall the bill."

" 'I believe that if it makes the floor there are the votes in the Senate to pass civil unions," she said."

"Hanabusa said she would only attempt to force the bill out of committee with the concurrence of the committee's chairman, state Sen. Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Manoa, McCully), who backs civil unions. Taniguchi said he would prefer to deal with the bill in committee but would be open to alternatives if it stalls." 2

During February the Senate Committee refused to pass the bill onto the full Senate. The Senate voted on MAR-25 18 to 6 to keep it in the committee. Nine votes would have been needed to take the bill out of committee and have it voted upon by the Senate. 5

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Bill "flickers to life" then dies until 2010:

On 2009-MAY-07, the civil unions bill was pulled from the Senate committee with ten affirmative votes, and referred to the full Senate. But a coalition formed between conservatives -- who wanted the bill killed -- and liberals who wanted an amendment made to the bill.

The amended bill clarified that "it is not the Legislature's intent to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage." The amended version passed the Senate at first reading with a vote of 16 to 9.

However, the amended vote would have required another reading in the Senate and subsequent approval by both the Senate and House. Since the legislature adjourned on MAY-08, there was insufficient time to accomplish this. And so the bill was placed on hold until 2010. 6

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > HI > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > HI > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Hawaii State Legislature, HB444 HD1," Generated 2009-FEB-17, at:
  2. Derrick DePledge, "," Honolulu Advertiser, 2009-FEB-13, at:
  3. "Hawaii Takes Steps Toward Same-Sex 'Marriage',", 2009-FEB-16, at:
  4. Rocjard Borreca, "Civil-union bill advances," Star Bulletin, 2009-FEB-06. at:
  5. Jennifer Mesko, "Hawaii Defeats Civil Unions; Northeast Welcomes Same-Sex 'Marriage',", 2009-MAR-26, at:
  6. Richard Borreca & Mary Adamski, "Amendment stalls civil-unions bill, Star Bulletin, 2009-MAY-08, at:

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Copyright © 2009 & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-FEB
Latest update and review: 2010-JUN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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