According to the state’s only Republican Senator, legislators likely have the votes they need to make same-sex marriage a reality here in Hawaii.
A constitutional amendment passed in 1998 gave Hawaii’s legislature the power to define marriage. Right now, that only applies to heterosexual couples, but Senator Sam Slom says that could soon be changing.
Same-sex marriage proposals are introduced every year and have always failed, but Senator Slom believes Senate Bill 1369 has the support to pass this legislative session– though he plans to vote against it.
“Same sex marriage probably will pass this year. You’ve got a preponderance of Democrats who support it in both Houses, you’ve got the Congressional delegation, you’ve got our Governor!” said Senator Slom.
And you’ve got women like Renea Stewart and Lisa Veneri who’ve been together for 19 years, and want just one thing.
“The same rights that everyone else is afforded,” said Veneri. “I mean we go to work, we pay our taxes, we have a mortgage.”
“Yeah, we’re just your normal everyday couple. We just happen to be born gay,” said Stewart.
The couple says civil unions don’t afford couples the same rights as marriage. They point to a federal report by the General Accounting Office that indicates more than 1,100 legal protections are provided through marriage. Under state law there are an additional 300.
“You can fight for our country, you can pay your taxes, you can be contributors of society in the best of ways, but no — you are not allowed these rights or these kinds of civil rights under social justice,” said Stewart. ”That’s just un-American and it’s definitely not aloha.”
Senator Slom disagrees with those who consider same-sex marriage a civil rights issue.
“I can point in the direction of other people who will say exactly the opposite– including those African Americans that take umbrage to the fact that sexual orientation has been raised to a level of real civil rights difficulties and struggles they had, so it’s a difference of opinion,” said Senator Slom.
Senator Slom says he’s voting against the bill because he questions whether it will truly protect the rights of religious organizations who do not want to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.
“To me, I don’t care if gay people want to get married but to force other people to do things or to subsidize certain activities– that I oppose,” said Senator Slom.
“Whether you’re for it or against it, if you live in this country you’re afforded life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and you should have your rights– and marriage being one of them,” said Stewart.
Senate Bill 1369 has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Labor. At this time no specific hearing date has been set. If it passes as written, same-sex couples could legally marry in Hawaii by January 2014