House GOP infighting over same-sex marriage bill
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A power play to remove the sole House Republican who plans to vote for same-sex marriage stirred up controversy and political tension at the Capitol Tuesday, but failed.
"I'd like the governing coalition to be dissolved. I want us to give back the Vice Chairmanships to the majority. You can have them, they've polluted us. They've clouded our vision of what it means to provide a good ying and yang a tug and a pull in the democratic process," proclaimed Representative Bob McDermott (R - Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point).
In the showdown, more socially conservative Republicans attempted to oust more moderate Republicans.
Rep. McDermott introduced a resolution to remove long-time Judiciary committee member Representative Cynthia Thielen -- the only Republican who supports same-sex marriage.
McDermott wants Thielen (R - Kailua, Kaneohe) replaced with Representative Richard Fale ((R - Waialua, Kahuku, Waiahole), a fellow socially conservative Republican who also opposes same-sex marriage.
Both McDermott and Thielen serve on the House Judiciary committee, which is scheduled to hear SB 1, the "Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013" this Thursday. In order for the bill to survive the special session, it must be approved by the Judiciary committee. From there, it would advance to a vote on the House floor.
"In the democratic process, there's a natural ying and yang -- a pull, a tug and when you're all in bed together, so to speak, you lose that. It's good for both sides because it keeps it taut. With this there's too much back room slithering -- I mean, all the stuff people hate about politics, that's what this is and when I bought into the leadership I believed what they said -- transparency, openness, deliberate process -- that's not what we have," McDermott said from his office following the House session.
McDermott says he introduced the resolution as a reaction to the Democrat Caucus appointing Representative Denny Coffman (D - Naalehu, Captain Cook, Keahou), who supports same-sex marriage, to the Judiciary committee. McDermott says the move replaced Representative Rida Cabanilla (D - Ewa Beach, West Loch Estates), who according to McDermott would have voted no on same-sex marriage. However, Cabanilla confirmed with Hawaii News Now during a poll last week, she was undecided.
"This whole arrangement has destroyed the Minority Caucus. Of course right now, I'm the most hated man in there, fine I can live with that," McDermott said.
House leadership confirmed changes to committee membership does not typically happen unless the representative is removed for cause or consents.
But Thielen would not go down without a fight.
In his resolution, McDermott also asked to have Representative Gene Ward (R - Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawaii Kai) instated as Minority Leader of the House-- a move which would replace current the Minority Leader, Representative Aaron Johanson (R - Fort Shafter, Moanalua Gardens, Aliamanu).
The motion failed to pass.
After the vote, Thielen says her heart was racing.
"I was very proud of them, very proud of them because that is democracy. You don't muzzle a voice because you don't agree with what that voice is saying," Thielen said about her fellow lawmakers.
Majority leadership called the division in the House indicative of the polarizing nature of the same-sex marriage debate.
"We agree to disagree -- not just with the Republicans, but also with Democrats -- within our Caucus. You know, it's to be expected on an issue like this that you'll have some fundamental differences of opinion and that's the nature of this issue and being in the legislature," explained House Majority leader Scott Saiki (D - Downtown, Kakaako, McCully).
Even with the explosive accusations leveled Tuesday, Saiki says he's confident the House has the votes it needs to pass the same-sex marriage bill.
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