In the next few days, House Bill 444 will be introduced in the Hawaii State House. It is a bill which would create for same-sex couples a legal partnership equivalent to marriage in almost every way conceivable. For those couples living in Hawaii, the passage of this law would be an enormous step forward in leveling the field regarding marriage rights. It is, of course, not marriage, but it is a strong first step toward marriage and full equality in the law AND in society.
House Bill 444 will be introduced with an unprecedented 32 co-signers. Since the fight for equal rights for same-sex couples began here in the early 90′s, never has such a bill had such seeming broad support in the State House. While I remain ever-so-slightly skeptical of the bill’s eventual passage out of the House (a first here), I am extremely optimistic that is exactly what will happen. Call it what you will, fate, destiny, luck, hard work… whatever, House Bill 444 is poised to be the first bill of its kind to come out of either the House or Senate of the Hawaii State Legislature.
Aside from the historic context surrounding this bill, I have personal reasons for being excited about the momentum it seems to be generating. (No… this won’t mean I’ll be getting hitched any sooner, as I’m a heterosexual man surrounded by uninterested women) I’m excited because nearly 18 months ago I took this issue on as a personal priority. I joined the Family Equality Coalition of Hawaii at the same time. Shortly there after, I joined the Interim Board as Secretary and have been on the Board since then as a member at large. Anyway….
While the the prospects of the bill passing out of the House look promising (I refuse to call it a done deal), similar prosects of it passing out of the Senate later this session look far less promising. The State Senate Judiciary Committee is comprised of individuals (particularly Sam Slom and Mike Gabbard) far less inclined to support this cause than their counterparts on the House side. This all isn’t to say that a Civil Unions bill passed out of BOTH houses is an impossibility. The cause certainly has some strong supporters on the Senate side and even in the Senate Judiciary Committee, there just aren’t as many as we’d like.
Needless to say, there’s still much work to be done before things here are truly equal, even if by some long shot surprise we’re able to pass, and get the Governor to sign, a Civil Unions bill this year. Marriage for same-sex couples is the only answer. That’s right. Anything less is discrimination, plain and simple, but we’re moving in the right direction and nothing of this sort comes quickly or easily.