Is Marriage Equality Coming to Hawaii?


The answer to the question in the title of this post has several components: almost certainly, and probably soon, but not quite yet.  The Huffington Post has more:

Neil_AbercrombieHawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) attempted to nudge state lawmakers into action on Wednesday, releasing a draft of a bill that would make his state the 14th to legalize gay marriage.

The legislation, based off a bill that stalled earlier this year in the state Senate, "was drafted in collaboration with legislators, staff and stakeholders," Abercrombie said.

Abercrombie has expressed hopes that state lawmakers will meet for a special session in order to vote on the measure. Speaking after a rally outside the capitol that was timed with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Wednesday, Abercrombie said he would let leaders in the state legislature review the bill before urging them to convene again to debate it.

But that special session doesn't quite look imminent.  Democrats do control commanding majorities in both the state House and Senate, but a two-thirds majority is required to initiate a special session.  And while Abercrombie can call for such a session himself and obviate the obviate the need for a two-thirds vote, Hawaii News Now reports that he's not quite ready to do so:

Speaker of the Hawai'i House of Representatives, Joseph Souki, says that Gov. Neil Abercrombie will not be calling a special session on same-sex marriage anytime soon, but did not rule out the possibility it could happen before January, when the next regular session convenes.

Governor Abercrombie says there is no timetable on making a special session decision, only that he wants to give everyone the time they need to address any concerns or questions they may have about the bill draft that was provided Wednesday.  The bill is based on Senate Bill 1369, which was introduced in the 2013 regular session.

Flag_of_Hawaii.svgNot surprisingly, a significant sticking point in the proposed marriage equality is the question of religious exemptions, although Abercrombie's latest draft is reported to have expanded such protections.

Marriage equality advocates attempted to pass a pro-marriage bill through the Hawaii legislature earlier this year, but were unable to get a vote on the issue.  Based on his recent (and past) statements, it seems likely that Gov. Abercrombie will end up calling a special session.  At this point, though, Democrats in seem to be taking a very cautious approach towards bringing equal marriage rights to the Aloha State.