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Hawaii Governor Laments 'Lonely Voice' of Gay Rep. Who Opposed Marriage Equality: AUDIO

Neil Abercrombie

Michelangelo Signorile interviewed Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie this past weekend about the legalization of gay marriage in the Aloha State. Abercrombie enthusiastically welcomed all gay couples to come to the state to celebrate their love and tie the knot, and expressed his pride at Hawaii's role in forwarding equality for gay couples, saying,

Part of the sense of Aloha that we try to live by is the sense that our diversity should define us, not divide us. Persevere in extending our humanity to one another.

When Signorile broached the topic of representative Jo Jordan, the first openly gay or lesbian legislator in the U.S. to vote against gay marriage and who did so on grounds that she didn't believe the religious protections were strong enough, Abercrombie said, 

She was a lonely voice in this. I understand it. I disagree with her. She had her reservations about [the bill] sufficient to cause her to vote no. And I'm going to take her at her word. My job now is not to seek retribution or go over the validity of what the motivation was for people’s votes, but to work with them all.

You can listen to Abercrombie and Signorile discussing representative Jordan, along with more clips from the interview, below:


Hawaii Governor Signs Marriage Equality Bill into Law: VIDEO


Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has signed the marriage equality bill into law. Marriages will start on December 2.

Watch the full ceremony video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hawaii Governor Signs Marriage Equality Bill into Law: VIDEO" »

Governor to Sign Hawaii Marriage Bill Today, Watch LIVE; Judge to Rule on Challenge Tomorrow

AbercrombieHawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie plans to sign the Hawaii marriage equality bill this morning at 10 am HST/3 pm ET. You can watch it live HERE. A large crowd is expected.

Hawaii will be the 15th state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage and the law is expected to take effect on December 2.

In the past three weeks, two other states have also become marriage equality states, New Jersey and Illinois, the 14th and 16th, respectively, if order is determined by when the laws take effect.

However, expect challenges before then. We've already reported on wingnut lawmaker Bob McDermott and the lawsuit he has filed which claims that in 1998 when Hawaii passed a constitutional amendment voters thought they were voting for one man/one woman marriage rather than allowing the legislature to decide on what constitutes a marriage.

McdermottKHON says that Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto is expected to rule on that this week:

...opponents are counting on Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto to stop the law from taking effect. On Thursday, he's expected to rule on a court order that could stop the state from issuing wedding licenses for same-sex couples on the basis that the people already voted against same-sex marriage in a constitutional amendment in 1998.

"The vote the people made back in 1998 when they basically ratified the amended Constitution by virtually 70 percent in favor," said John Dwyer, attorney for Rep. McDermott.

If the judge grants the court order then another trial will be scheduled that could essentially strike down the same-sex marriage law.

But the state Attorney General says the 1998 constitutional amendment gave the legislature authority to change the law and so the same-sex marriage will be upheld.

Watch a report on the bill's passage in the Senate, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Governor to Sign Hawaii Marriage Bill Today, Watch LIVE; Judge to Rule on Challenge Tomorrow" »

Marriage Equality Battle Turns to Hawaii This Week; Officials Weigh in on Related 9th Circuit Cases


The marriage equality focus turns to Hawaii this week as Governor Neil Abercrombie calls a special session of the legislature to consider a marriage equality bill. Abercrombie has said he would not hold such a session unless the votes were there.

Ad_hawaiiStill, expect religious right-wingers to do all they can to derail it. As we saw yesterday, NOM is already running ads against it in the Aloha state.

Reuters reports:

The debate over same-sex matrimony has long divided the "Aloha State," and the special session will be greeted by rival demonstrations. On Sunday, proponents plan an "All You Need is Love" rally in Honolulu and opponents will follow with a "Let the People Decide" gathering on Monday.

In recent days, opponents of the bill have gathered on the sides of volcanic mountain highways and dense urban streets with signs saying "Let the People Vote on Marriage."

"They're starting House hearings on Halloween, when many of those opposed will be busy with their families, so we're telling people to bring their kids trick-or-treating at the state capitol," said Jim Hochberg, president of Hawaii Family Advocates, the leading group opposing the governor's bill.

Donald Bentz, head of the gay rights group Equality Hawaii, said he was hopeful the bill would pass and said it was bad policy to allow voters - rather than lawmakers or the courts - to decide civil rights questions.

AbercrombieAbercrombie said last month that it is time: "Every variation on a view with regard to the issue of marriage and equitable treatment for those engaged in marriage has been aired, has been analyzed, has been discussed.No one has been left out or has been marginalized in the process to this point."

On another front, there are cases pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals involving Hawaii and Nevada, and lots of people, including Abercrombie, are weighing in on those.

Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade explains:

The cases before the court are Sevick v. Sandoval, a federal lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal last year seeking marriage equality in Nevada, and Jackson v. Abercrombie, a similar lawsuit filed by private attorneys seeking to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Both are on appeal before the Ninth Circuit after district courts in those states affirmed that the bans on same-sex marriage were constitutional.

Abercrombie, who previously said he wouldn’t defend the ban on same-sex marriage in court, submitted an opening brief from his lawyers on Oct. 18 that seeks permission to file an additional, more lengthy document because the lawsuit a “landmark civil rights case.”

But the 112-page brief makes initial arguments about why the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, arguing that it fails any rational basis test and laws related to sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny.

CoakleyAlso weighing in on the two cases, which are the most advanced federal lawsuits on marriage equality and the closest to the Supreme Court, were 14 attorneys general led by Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley, along with Calfiornia AG Kamala Harris, and Delaware AG Beau Biden:

The 32-page argues that the bans on same-sex marriage in Hawaii and Nevada are unconstitutional, among other reasons, because including same-sex couples into the institution of marriage enhances state interest and the current laws aren’t rationally related to interests in procreation or child-rearing.

“Since the founding, states have sanctioned marriages to support families, strengthen communities, and facilitate governance,” the brief states. “Because same-sex couples form families, raise children, and avail themselves of the benefits and abide by the obligations of marriage in the same manner as different-sex couples, the states’ interest in marriage are furthered by allowing same-sex couples to marry.”

Adds the AP: "Coakley led the filing of the amicus brief on behalf of Massachusetts and 13 other states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia."

Hawaii Governor Calls Special Session for Marriage Equality Bill


Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie announced today that he'll call a special session of the legislature to consider a marriage equality bill on October 28, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports:

AbercrombieState House Democrats have met over the past two weeks to count votes and determine if support existed to pass a measure. Senate Democrats are scheduled to meet later this week, although leaders have said they have enough votes to pass a bill recognizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii.

Abercrombie had previously said he was waiting for a clear signal from the Legislature before calling the lawmakers back for a special session. Last week, he said he believed he had all the information he needed to make his decision.

The AP adds:

The bill is the culmination of 20 years of discussion, Abercrombie told reporters during a news conference at the Hawaii Capitol.

"Every variation on a view with regard to the issue of marriage and equitable treatment for those engaged in marriage has been aired, has been analyzed, has been discussed," Abercrombie said. "No one has been left out or has been marginalized in the process to this point."

Abercrombie acknowledged that some people will be against the bill because they disagree with the concept of gay marriage, but he said it includes provisions — including a religious exemption — to protect First Amendment rights.

Hawaii would be the 14th state to offer marriage equality, along with D.C.

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.


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