Hawaii State Senate Approves HB 444 SD1

Civil Unions bill now heads to state House for consideration

HONOLULU – Equality Hawaii, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, today applauded the Hawaii State Senate for passing HB 444 SD1 by an 18-7 vote. The bill provides that the equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii be afforded to thousands of non-married couples in the state. The bill now heads to the Hawaii State House for their consideration.

“We’re very pleased that the Hawaii State Senate took action and passed the Civil Unions bill today,” said Tambry Young, Co-Chair of Equality Hawaii. “The Senate acted with great courage, conviction and integrity. They did the right thing for all of Hawaii’s families.”

The final vote in the Senate came after an amendment to change the effective date of the legislation failed to garner enough votes to pass. The issue of the effective date of the bill arose when the bill failed to secure final passage in the 2009 portion of the legislative session, which ended last May. Authors of the bill, anticipating passage would come in 2009 originally listed the effective date as January 1, 2010. On November 25, the Hawaii Attorney General issued an opinion on the potential date complication. In that opinion, the Attorney General clearly stated that the retroactive date would not invalidate the legislation.

“The Human Rights Campaign congratulates all those who have advocated for equality in the Aloha State, especially our friends in the legislature and at Equality Hawaii,” said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “We have been a proud partner with Hawaii’s fair-minded residents for decades and will continue to stand by their side in the struggle for equality.”

“This particular fight for HB 444 has spanned more than two years, but is just one more step in the decade’s long struggle for equality that so many residents of Hawaii have sought” said Alan Spector, Legislative Affairs Co-Chair for Equality Hawaii. “The road has been long and the fight has been emotional, but today we’re one step closer to providing equal rights and responsibilities to all of Hawaii’s loving couples and their families.”

The legislation now moves to the state House for its consideration of the amended bill, HB 444 SD1. The House would need to concur with the Senate version or amend the bill to change the effective date, which would send the bill to conference committee, before the final bill heads to Governor Linda Lingle’s desk. The Governor may sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature after 10 days.

Equality Hawaii is dedicated to securing equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their families in Hawaii. We envision a Hawaii in which LGBT people and their families have full equality in all areas of the law.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.