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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

High Hopes for Civil Unions in Hawaii

By Michael A. Jones -

One of the most disappointing moments for LGBT equality in 2010 came when former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle toyed with the idea of signing a civil unions bill for several weeks, only to host a press conference at the very last minute to announce her opposition to any form of recognition for same-sex relationships. Cue the boos and hisses.
But all is not lost in the Aloha State. Gov. Lingle was term limited and unable to run for another term. Her successor? Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who took over the governor's office handily in November. And Abercrombie has made clear from the get go: his administration wants to see civil unions legislation become a reality in Hawaii.
By that barometer, this week is shaping up to be huge.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on newly-introduced civil unions legislation. If it moves out of committee, it will go to a full vote before the State Senate, and then move over to the State House. In many respects, the measure is exactly identical to the one former Gov. Lingle vetoed about seven months ago.
“We feel very optimistic, given how thorough civil unions has been debated in Hawaii the past few years and given that we already passed the bill,” said Alan Specter, co-chairman of Equality Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
But though there's plenty of reason for optimism, one state legislator is quick to remind voters that there's still a ton of work to be done, and that the legislative process can be unpredictable.
“I think the questions coming into the session have almost asked me whether I think it’s a done deal,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Blake Oshiro. "I would never ever portray it as that way because I think there’s a lot of work to be done and many, many, many, things can happen during the legislative process."
Given the history of civil unions debates in Hawaii, perhaps some guarded optimism is welcome.


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