Main | Friday, April 30, 2010

SHOCKER: Hawaii House Approves Civil Unions, Bill Now Goes To Governor

In a surprise move and with only hours left in the legislative year, late yesterday the Hawaii House approved its civil unions bill by a vote of 31-20. The Hawaii Senate approved the bill back in January, but it later stalled in the House after massive protests were organized by Christian groups and by the Hawaiian Catholic diocese, who created anti-gay fliers for distribution to over 220,000 parishioners.

The bill now goes before Gov. Linda Lingle, who has 45 days to veto the bill or allow it to take effect without her signature. Should Lingle veto the bill, the 18-9 vote margin in the Hawaii Senate was sufficient for an override. The Hawaii House, however, needs 34 votes for an override, three shy of yesterday's action. In January, Lt. Gov. James Ioana promised that even if the civil unions bill becomes law, it would be overturned by public referendum in November.

RELATED: In February the ACLU and Lambda Legal announced that they were planning to file a lawsuit against the state for failing to provide equal protection to LGBT couples. Lambda Legal reacts to today's news via press release:
"Today's vote was down to the wire, but it represents years of steady work by Hawai`i's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and by concerned state legislators. There's no denying it's been a bumpy road, but like all arduous journeys, it makes the destination that much sweeter. After the seeming death of HB 444 last January, Lambda Legal and our colleagues at the ACLU of Hawai`i announced we would file a lawsuit seeking relief for the thousands of couples who need the very real protections civil unions will provide. In fact, we were already on O`ahu this week in final preparations for litigation if the legislature failed to act by today's end of session. We're delighted that, as long as Governor Lingle does not veto the bill, our lawsuit won't be necessary."

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