East Hawaii News

Governor Calls Special Session on Gay Marriage

September 9, 2013, 3:37 PM HST
* Updated September 9, 3:43 PM
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie today called for state lawmakers to meet beginning Oct. 28 to consider a bill that would legalize gay marriages in Hawaii.

“The decision to call a special session is based on doing what is right to create equity for all in Hawaii,” Abercrombie said.

“As a former legislator, I have great respect for the Legislature and the legislative process,” he said in a statement issued by his office. “The merits of holding a special session include the opportunity for the Legislature to focus squarely on this important issue, without having to divert attention to the hundreds of other bills introduced during a regular session.”

Abercrombie last month released a draft of a bill patterned after Senate Bill 1369, which was introduced during this year’s legislative session. The latest version of the bill can be viewed here.

“It is the intent of the legislature that there be no legal distinction between same-sex married couples and opposite-sex married couples with respect to marriage under the laws of this state,” the governor’s draft bill said.

Senate Bill 1369 was sent to two Senate committees, Judiciary and Ways and Means, but was never scheduled for a hearing.

Abercrombie’s draft bill was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal tax, pension and health benefits to married gay couples.

“Community input was taken into consideration while the state Attorney General’s office worked closely with elected officials and a number of legislative staff to craft and further refine the bill,” the governor said today.

State lawmakers have been meeting with each other and with Abercrombie since he released the draft bill as part of efforts to assess support for the measure.

An email sent out by Abercrombie’s election committee, Abercrombie for Governor, was strongly supportive of the bill, calling gay marriage a “civil right” that “can no longer be denied.”

I’ve held firmly to this belief in my life and political career,” the email said. “One of the lessons learned from the civil rights movement is that to achieve success in the fight for justice, we should not and cannot wait to correct a wrong.”

University of Hawaii researchers say legalizing gay marriages would increase tourism revenue by $217 million over two years. The state could receive additional revenue as a result of the federal benefits that would be enacted by the legalizing of gay marriages.

Abercrombie said having state lawmakers consider the matter before the end of the tax year could allow for participants to take “full advantage of various tax and other financial issues.”

House Speaker Joe Souki today said he expected Abercrombie to convene the special session.

“Last week Friday when we met with him we had an open and frank discussion on the proposed legislation and it was clear that he intended to act on the issue very quickly,” Souki said. “Now that the decision has been made, it gives the public time to comment on the proposed legislation before the special session convenes on Oct. 28.”

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