Same-Sex Marriage a Signature Away From Law: Passes Senate 19-4

November 12, 2013, 12:55 PM HST · Updated November 12, 5:52 PM
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Final reading of same-sex marriage bill in the State Senate. Photo courtesy Mileka Lincoln.

Final reading of same-sex marriage bill in the State Senate. Photo courtesy Mileka Lincoln.

By Wendy Osher

Same-sex marriage in Hawaiʻi is one signature away from becoming law after passing  in a final 19-4 vote by the Hawaiʻi Senate today.

All Maui senators voiced support for the measure including: Senators Roz Baker, J. Kalani English, and Gil Keith-Agaran.

In comments provided by Senator Gil Keith-Agaran, the Maui lawmaker said passing  the bill, “is what is consistent with fairness, equity, and simple justice. My support for this bill is based on the basic American value that all citizens are entitled to equal treatment and on the fundamental fairness as a hallmark of our community.”

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“I’ve consistently supported the idea that government should encourage committed, loving relationships between adults as the basis of stronger families and healthy communities. It’s not a liberal view — it’s an American idea,” said Sen. Keith-Agaran.

In the moments after the Hawaiʻi Senate passed SB1 HD1, some House Democrats, including Rep.Kaniela Ing of Maui were observed heading into Rotunda to celebrate. Photo courtesy Mileka Lincoln.

In the moments after the Hawaiʻi Senate passed SB1 HD1, some House Democrats, including Rep.Kaniela Ing of Maui were observed heading into Rotunda to celebrate. Photo courtesy Mileka Lincoln.

“I find it short-sighted to pretend that the diversity of families and relationships we all know and value in our Hawaiʻi simply don’t exist. This bill acknowledges that equal treatment and equal rights must extend to those family relationships in Hawaiʻi. We are today deciding that those intimate commitments and relationships are worthy of equal dignity and recognition,” he said.

Keith-Agaran also acknowledged that his own faith forms much of how he approached issues and said, “Legalizing same-sex marriage will do nothing to affect my own marriage. My spouse and I remain responsible for maintaining the love and commitment required in our relationship — not whether we as a government, whether we as a legislature, and whether we as a community exclude or welcome other Hawaiʻi committed couples from entering into their marriages.”

“It comes down to this: while I acknowledge the views of those who are opposed to same-sex marriage due to religious or moral concerns, our secular laws confirming benefits to and imposing obligations of residents must be implied equally. Given the US Supreme Court rulings, indicating that only couples married under the laws of their state have access to federal rights and benefits, I support passing this law,” said Keith-Agaran in concluding statements.

Fellow Maui Senator J Kalani English said, “from a Hawaiian perspective, this is nothing more than the expansion of aloha in Hawaiʻi; and from a Hawaiian perspective, marriage has always been something that we recognize when people loved each other and chose to live with each other.”

“It has taken a while for us to catch up with that notion, but today we stand at the brink of voting on that — to expand civil rights of all people in Hawaiʻi. I thank you for your positive vote today as we move forward to make Hawaiʻi truly the Aloha State,” said Sen. English.

Fellow Maui Senator Roz Baker also rose in support of the bill saying, “I guess I’m surprised at all of the fear and almost hatred I hear from people who seem to be afraid of allowing others in committed relationships to be recognized under the law.”

Senator Baker, who described herself as a Christian said, “I keep asking myself why are people so afraid of somebody else that’s different — that may practice their religion in a different way.”

“It really is about loving one another, having compassion, reaching out out to people that may be outcasts and different, and raising them up; and yet that’s not what I hear from some of the folks that are opposed to SB1 HD1, and it troubles me,” said Senator Baker.

“I don’t see that providing equal treatment under the law is a bad thing, a negative thing, or is going to stop traditional marriage. I see it as augmenting marriage and actually including more people in more stable relationships,” said Baker prior to casting a yes vote.

Sen. Mike Gabbard was among the four who cast no-votes today, speaking in strong opposition to SB1, saying the bill was “rushed through.”

Gabbard who co-sponsored a Senate concurrent resolution last session that called for a task force headed by the Dean of the UH Law school to study the economic, social, and religious impacts of legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaiʻi, said the task force never met because the governor called a special session.

“Regardless of whether you are for or against same sex marriage, the very least we could have done is to have taken the time to really study the potential impacts of legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaiʻi,” said Gabbard.”We have two legislative decisions that we, the legislature made — the task force and no special session–that are overridden by the governor. That’s not democracy by any stretch of the imagination… That’s one of the main reasons why the traditional marriage supporters are so outraged by what’s been going on for the last two weeks,” said Gabbard.

In addition to Gabbard, others who voted against the measure included: Senator Sam Slom (R); Donna Mercado Kim (D); and Ronald Kouchi (D) of Kauaʻi.

Today’s vote comes following consistent advancement of the measure in both chambers and 57 hours of testimony from thousands of individuals during committee review in the state House.

SB1 HD1 recognizes marriages between individuals of the same gender by extending to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities that married couples of the opposite-sex are presently entitled to.

The bill also expands a religious exemption, and changes the start date to December 2, 2013, instead of November 18, 2013 to allow time for department implementation.

Security at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol upon final vote of same-sex marriage legislation. Photo courtesy Mileka Lincoln.

To ensure public safety, legislative officials say individuals entering the chambers were subject to a bag check and metal detector screening as the Senate took up a final vote of same-sex marriage legislation. Photo courtesy Mileka Lincoln.

Since the beginning of the special session on Oct. 28, the bill has passed a series of legislative approvals that included the following:

The governor has yet to announce when a bill signing will take place, but several media publications have speculated that the signing will come as early as Wednesday, Nov. 13.

In a statement released this afternoon, Governor Neil Abercrombie said:

“In Hawaiʻi, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality. We embrace the Aloha spirit and respect one another. Today, we celebrate our diversity defining us rather than dividing us.

“I believe this bill provides equal rights for all people, is legally sound, and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution.

“I look forward to signing this significant piece of legislation, which provides marriage equity and fully recognizes and protects religious freedoms.”

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