Hawaii next for gay marriage push

August 20, 2013
Rev. Irene Matsumoto of Palolo Kwannon Temple signs a resolution supporting gaymarriage at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu in Honolulu on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. More than two dozen Hawaii faith leaders of various religions signed a resolution Monday calling the state to pass a law legalizing gay marriage. (AP Photo/Oskar Garcia) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Special Instruction : N/A File Size: 2MB image fitting: all visiblehorizontalverticalactual size
Rev. Irene Matsumoto of Palolo Kwannon Temple signs a resolution supporting gay marriage at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu in Honolulu on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. More than two dozen Hawaii faith leaders of various religions signed a resolution Monday calling the state to pass a law legalizing gay marriage. (AP/Oskar Garcia)

Hawaii state House Democrats will meet this week to gauge whether they can come up with the votes to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

If there is sufficient support, and if legislative leaders can agree on language that would withstand court challenges, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) will call a special session to deal with the issue this fall. Abercrombie told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he thinks it’s “very likely” there will be a special session.

“I think we can put together something that can achieve a solid majority, that will give us the opportunity to establish marriage equity in the state of Hawaii commensurate with the recent Supreme Court decisions, and will satisfy and resolve the issues that are presently before the appeals court on the mainland,” Abercrombie told a gathering of state Democrats.

Abercrombie’s chief of staff, Blake Oshiro, is working on language with the state attorney general’s office, the Star-Advertiser reported Monday. State Senate leadership says they have the votes to pass a same-sex marriage bill.

Democrats have overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers; they control the House by a 44-7 margin, and they hold 24 of 25 seats in the Senate. But the legislature has to rely on Abercrombie to call a special session because they can’t meet the two-thirds threshold to call one themselves.

Hawaii passed a constitutional amendment giving the legislature power to define marriage as a heterosexual union in 1998, but the legislature partially reversed itself in 2011, legalizing civil unions between same-sex couples.

Related:
Same-sex marriage laws by state
Pentagon extends benefits to same-sex spouses

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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