Senate committee passes civil unions bill - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Senate committee passes civil unions bill

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last year there were flag wavers, sign holders on the street, and songs of victory and defeat. But this year the first public hearing of a civil unions bill was minus fanfare.

"It's calmer," Equality Hawaii chairman Alan Spector said.

"It's not as contentious," said Leon Siu of Christian Voice of Hawaii

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave testifiers ninety seconds to make their case on Senate Bill 232.

"SB 232 does not redefine marriage," Valerie Smith told the committee.

Like House Bill 444 that was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle, the Senate version gives rights and protections married couples share to same-sex and heterosexual partners.

The difference is a new date it would take effect and the fact Gov. Neil Abercrombie supports a civil union bill.

Opponents of the measure want lawmakers to look ahead.

"What does this bill actually do? What kind of consequences are there going to be for our society?" Siu said.

Supporters feel denying civil unions denies their civil rights while opponents say a civil union law would validate a gay lifestyle.

"We're all born a certain race. We can't change the color of our skin but we can change our sexual behavior," said Margaret Scow of Mililani.

"When you deny one sector of population the same rights the rest of the entire population has, that's discrimination," PFLAG-Oahu president Carolyn Golojuch said.

The original civil unions bill was introduced in 2009.

"Since then we've experienced such a rapid advancement of state after state passing same-sex equality legislation," Spector said.

"By passing a civil unions law you will be denying some children either a mother or a father," Gary Okino said.

After three hours of testimony, SB 232 passed 3 to 2.

It's now heading to the full Senate.

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