By Peter J. Smith
HONOLULU, April 30, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-family advocates were taken by surprise when the Hawaii House of Representatives unexpectedly revived and passed legislation that would establish same-sex civil unions and make them equivalent to marriage, nearly three months after everyone thought the issue was a dead letter.
The Senate bill taken up by the House (HB 444) "extends the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union."
Back in February, the House decided to take the legislation off its agenda for the rest of the legislative year in a voice vote that would have required two-thirds of the Democratic-controlled chamber to revive the issue.
However on Thursday, the very last day of the state’s legislative session, Rep. Blake Oshiro moved to revive the Senate bill. Instead of following the rules established for taking up the shelved bill, Speaker Calvin Say had the House take four votes to suspend those rules and pass the bill with just a majority.
The bill passed 31 votes in favor to 20 against, and will now proceed to the desk of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. The governor has 45 days to make a decision on whether to sign or veto the civil unions bill, and has not indicated which way she will decide.
Pro-family advocates were caught off-guard by this legislative bait-and-switch, since the House rules governing the postponed bill appeared to make it impossible to revive it without the two-thirds majority, which same-sex civil union advocates did not have.
It was only the evening before the vote that the Catholic Church in Hawaii caught wind of the rumor that the bill would be somehow resurrected, and fired off a press release at 7:30 pm, asking Catholics and pro-family advocates to mobilize against the bill.
"We are disappointed, and we hope and pray the governor will veto the bill, both because of the content — which is marriage in disguise — and because it is poor legislation," said Rev. Marc Alexander, vicar general of the Honolulu diocese, according to Hawaii’s Star Bulletin.
"This is unfair and untimely," Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai), an opponent of the bill, told the Bulletin, indicating that it was an invitation to political suicide. "This is going to cause chaos in the community."
Political chaos may indeed loom on the horizon - the House leadership decided to vote on the issue in the run-up to both a special election for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, and the 2010 elections, ensuring that the issue will be fresh in the minds of voters in an already unfavorable political climate.
Honolulu City Council Charles K. Djou, the Republican contender for the special election and a conservative with support from the Tea Party groups, blasted the passage of the legislation.
“Hawaii voters have spoken very clearly in support of traditional marriage,” said Djou in a statement condemning the legislature, which he said “clearly and blatantly ignored the will of the people of Hawaii on this issue.”
Djou also took aim at his two Democrat opponents Ed Case, a supporter of same-sex “marriage,” and Senate president Colleen Hanabusa, who voted for HB 444.
“Unlike both Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa, my two major opponents in this congressional campaign, I will not ignore Hawaii voters and look forward to their judgment in our upcoming special election."
The special election is set for May 22 and is conducted by mail.
A recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of the Hawaii First District special election reveals Djou has pulled ahead in the three-way race with 32 percent of the vote, followed by Case’s 29 percent, and Hanabusa at 28 percent.
See previous coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
Hawaii Puts Same-Sex Unions Bill Back in Legislative Closet