Hawaii postpones civil unions bill indefinitely

January 29, 2010

Last year the civil unions bill passed the Hawaii House by a vote of 33-to 17. One week ago, the Senate passed the bill 18-7. But on Friday the House voted to postpone indefinitely the civil unions bill for gay and heterosexual couples. Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, who was co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike, which started the whole thing, said:

Losing ground? No way. We don’t win every battle, and we definitely need to strengthen our reaching out to more Americans to bring them into our cause (which is what Freedom to Marry’s expansion is all about). But after a decade of inaction, we got both houses of the Hawaii legislature to pass a civil union bill, just not in sync — and remember, when we started this movement in Hawaii, there was no place in the world where same-sex couples could marry. Now we’ve got five states, our nation’s capital, eight countries, and more shimmering within reach.

The Democratic president [Bill Clinton] who signed the so-called “DOMA” as we were doing the trial in Hawaii now supports the freedom to marry and has called for “DOMA”’s repeal, as did the Republican congressman [Bob Barr] who wrote it.

More than a hundred million Americans now live in a state that provides some level of statewide recognition of same-sex couples and their families — up from virtually zero a decade ago.

We have a lot more to do, as Freedom to Marry works to build a majority for marriage, win more states, and build toward a federal victory…but by any historical measure, we’ve gained and are gaining ground, and the future is ours. [Link]

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Concerns about gay couples raising kids still main argument of freedom to marry opponents after four

The Sacramento Bee
January 30, 2010

The Prop 8 trial ended its witness testimony in San Francisco this week. The defense argued that even if Proposition 8 harms gays and lesbians and any children they may have, voters had a right to exclude gays from marriage because of concerns, despite numerous studies to the contrary, that children are best raised by their biological mothers and fathers. "Fourteen years later [than the 1996 Hawaii freedom to marry case] and tens of millions of dollars later, they [the opposition] haven't come up with anything else," said Evan Wolfson of the group Freedom to Marry. [Link]

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Hawaii House to decide by Friday whether to vote on civil unions

January 26, 2010

State House Speaker Calvin Say said yesterday that he will announce by Friday whether the House will vote on a civil-unions bill. After a private caucus among majority Democrats, Say said lawmakers will have to consider whether they want to bring the bill to the floor even if they do not have a veto-proof margin, or 34 of 51 lawmakers. [Link]

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Civil Unions Bill May Help Bolster Hawaii Tourism

KITV.com (Honolulu)
January 26, 2010

The civil unions bill approved by the Hawaii state Senate Friday may help to increase the number of gay and lesbian tourists who vacation in the state. The state Senate's decision came days after a report that showed Hawaii is declining as a favorite vacation destination for LGBT people. [Link]

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Freedom to Marry has endured a long fight in Hawaii

January 24, 2010

Hawaii has been grappling with the issue of the freedom to marry longer than any other state, since 1993. Now supporters and opponents of House Bill 444 — the civil unions bill — are waiting to see if the measure will pass the House with a veto-proof margin, allowing gay couples to enter into civil unions that confer the same rights, protections and responsibilities enjoyed by married couples. [Link]

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Hawaii Senate passes civil-unions bill with veto-proof majority, 18-7

January 23, 2010
The Hawaii state Senate passed a civil-unions bill on Friday, sending a strong message to the state House and Gov. Linda Lingle with a veto-proof majority vote. The vote was 18 to 7. The bill would allow gay and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law. [Link]

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Evan Wolfson: 14 Years After Hawaii: New Freedom to Marry Case in California; Same Old, Same Old Fro

The Huffington Post
January 21, 2010
Evan Wolfson summarizes advances in the marriage landscape from the historic Baehr v. Miike case in Hawaii in 1996 (which was televised on Court TV), for which he was co-counsel, to the current Prop 8 trial going on in California. One thing that he notes hasn't advanced is the opposition's ability to defend the denial of marriage with anything better than what they had in 1996:
One other thing that hasn't changed since Hawaii is the failure of the anti-gay side to come up with anything better to defend the denial of marriage than they had in 1996. In a way, this is surprising, given that their lead attorney, Charles Cooper, was also the hired-gun brought in by the state of Hawaii to shore up its case in 1990's. It's not as if Cooper hasn't had time to think of an argument - so an exchange he had with Judge Walker was quite telling: Judge Walker asked, "What would be the harm of permitting gay men and lesbians to marry?" Cooper, replied, "Your Honor, my answer is: I don't know ... I don't know." Fundamentally, of course, their inability to defend the denial of marriage with real evidence and logic is not surprising; the reason smart lawyers like Mr. Cooper don't give a better answer to why marriage discrimination should be allowed to continue is that there isn't one. [Link]

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Voice for Equality: Rev. Geoffrey Black

The Rev. Geoffrey Black is the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ (UCC). Prior to his current appointment which began in October 2009, Rev. Black led the UCC's New York Conference for nearly a decade. Black was previously a program staff member in the UCC's Office for Church Life and Leadership. During his career he has served as assistant chaplain at Brown University, associate minister at St. Albans (N.Y.) Congregational UCC, pastor of Congregational UCC of South Hempstead (N.Y.), lecturer in the Field Education Department of Union Theological Seminary in New York and protestant chaplain at Adelphi University. Black is also currently a member of the board of trustees of Lancaster Theological Seminary. Ecumenical commitment, concern for equal justice, African-American empowerment and community improvement have shaped Black's ministry in the church and the communities in which he has lived. Learn more here.

On January 18, 2010, Rev. Black spoke before a crowd gathered at the Church of the Crossroads in Honolulu, Hawaii about the legalization of civil unions of gay couples soon to be considered in the Hawaii legislature:
We have come to understand that the rights of gay and lesbian couples are being violated as equal citizens. This is the civil rights issue of the moment. Sexual orientation is being used, just as color was used, as a reason to differentiate them from the rest of the population and treat them unequally. As a church person and church leader, I defend their [opposing religious groups] right to articulate their feelings and beliefs in the public square, but in the end, the government has the responsibility to treat all people equally. [Link]
Freedom to Marry salutes the Rev. Geoffrey Black as a Voice for Equality! Learn about other Voices for Equality here.

If Rev. Black's support inspires you, get involved!

**Make your NOMINATION for a Voice for Equality today!

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Civil Unions May Get Quick Vote at Hawaii Capitol

The Associated Press
January 16, 2010
When they reconvene on Wednesday, Hawaii legislators may vote on whether or not to honor civil unions between gay and lesbian couples in the state. The measure would expand the state's existing reciprocal beneficiaries law by granting to unmarried same- and opposite-gender couples all of the rights and benefits the state provides to married couples. [Link]

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Editorial: Hawaii Should put civil unions for gay couples on the table

Star Bulletin (Hawaii)
January 12, 2010
Hawaii legislators are prepared to vote on whether to legalize civil unions for gay couples, which may be a popular but legally questionable compromise. Gov. Linda Lingle says the Legislature would be distracted by the issue and should concentrate on the economy, but legislatures are designed to take on many issues in a general session and should not use such an excuse to ignore hot ones—particularly one left so dramatically unfinished at the end of the last session. [Link]

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