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Hawaii Senate committee advances marriage equality bill

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Hawaii state sealBy a comfortable margin, the Hawaii Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee voted to approve a marriage equality bill, clearing it of the first legislative hurdle along what looks like a path to speedy approval.  From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

The 5-to-2 vote came after the debate over marriage equality engulfed the state Capitol during the first day of a special legislative session called by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

“It’s historic in the sense that there’s a huge paradigm shift, but it’s a shift that, in my opinion, bends the arc of justice towards the right way,” Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua), the committee’s chairman, said after the vote. “It takes us to a new level of equal rights.”

The bill will go to the full Senate, and is also scheduled to be taken up by the House Judiciary and Finance committees on Thursday at a joint hearing at 10 a.m. local time.

As I noted yesterday before the opening of the special legislative session, the bill’s chances of success look very high.  From the Star-Advertiser‘s preview of the special session:

The projected vote count for marriage equality in the state Senate is 21-4. In the state House — where individual districts are smaller and the intensity of public opinion can feel closer — several lawmakers appear nervous. The Star-Advertiser’s vote count in the House remains at 28-17, with six lawmakers undecided. House leaders say their count is closer to 30 in support, a cushion over the 26 votes required for passage.

The House Democrats who say they are undecided — and who will likely experience the full force of the public over the next several days — are still calculating.

If the push for equal marriage rights is successful, a pending court challenge in the Ninth Circuit called Jackson v. Abercrombie seeking to bring marriage equality to Hawaii would very likely be dismissed as moot.

We’ll have updates of the special session as news moves quickly this week!


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