HRC Blog

Victory in the Hawaii Senate!

Moments ago the Hawaii State Senate passed the civil unions bill 18-7.  Here's a recap of how it all went down: Senate Majority Policy Leader, Les Ihara whips last minute votes for HB 444[/caption] 11:35am Senate President Colleen Hanabusa just gaveled the session to order and we had our opening prayer. Now the Secretary of the Senate is calling roll and it looks like all Senators except one are present and accounted for. 11:42am Once the Senate finishes with announcements and introductions, we’re on to the business of the day. Currently the Senators are introducing their interns from around the world who have come to Hawaii to learn about our system of government. One of the greatest things about the Aloha State is its vast diversity and this exercise certainly shows that off. Sens. Jill Tokuda and J. Kilani English speak before debate on HB 444 12:05pm The Senate has finished with the introductions and now they are taking care of some administrative business before proceeding. The Chair just gaveled a short recess for document distribution which should only take a few moments. Everyone on the floor and in the gallery is staying put in anticipation of the upcoming debate on the bill. 12:12pm Senate President Hanabusa just called the Senate back to order and is entertaining an amendment to HB 444 to correct the effective date of the Civil Unions bill. Currently, the date is retroactive and the new proposed date would allow state departments to effectively and efficiently implement Civil Unions should the legislation become law. The new effective date would be January 1, 2011. Senator Les Ihara just spoke in favor of the amendment and now Sen. Kokubun, the Vice-President of the Senate, is speaking against the amendment. The amendment is a technical fix and the Attorney General has stated that the date does not invalidate the bill should it become law. Also speaking is Sen. Sam Slom, one of two Republicans in the Senate and a darling of the radical religious right here in the state. He was greeted with a mix of applause and boos from the gallery. Finally Democratic Majority Leader, Gary Hooser spoke in support of the amendment and now we’re on to the vote on the amendment. 12:25pm By a vote of 10-15 the motion to adopt the amendment failed. The Chair has called a short recess before the final vote on the bill. 12:30pm The Chair just gaveled the Senate back into session to discuss the final vote on HB 444. After asking for any discussion three times, only Sen. Sam Slom – the darling of the opposition – took to the mic and proceeded to misrepresent the fight over Civil Unions as he always does. His argument -- as is the argument of the entire opposition -- is to marriage. They just don’t seem to understand that this legislation is about equal treatment under the law and not about religious marriage. Sen. Ros Baker has just risen in support of the measure. Sen. Baker has been an ardent support of equality and one of our closest allies in this session. She is making an impassioned speech about civil rights and the importance for everyone to be treated equally. It’s amazing to witness the tone with which our opposing sides speak.  Several other speakers have spoken for and against the bill. 1:05pm Debate has ended and the Chair has called for a roll call vote. The final vote on the bill was announced to be 18-7. The bill passed!

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