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Hawaii lower house shelves vote on same-sex civil unions

[JURIST] The Hawaii House of Representatives [official website] on Friday postponed indefinitely a vote on legislation [text, PDF] that would have allowed persons in same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive] the same rights as married heterosexual couples. The postponement was decided by voice vote; only a two-thirds majority in the Hawaii House would allow further action on the bill. In the weeks leading to the vote, the Hawaii Family Forum and the Hawaii Catholic Conference [advocacy websites] had rallied [Maui News report] in a campaign against the civil union bill. Gay rights organization Equality Hawai'i characterized the voice vote result as a "cowardly move" motivated [press release] by "election considerations," and decried the use of the procedure, which avoids having to record the specific vote of each legislator.

The Hawaii Senate [official website] had voted [JURIST report] 18-7 only last week in favor of legislation [text, PDF] allowing same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. The state of Hawaii has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement since the 1990s [timeline]. In 1993, a Hawaii Supreme Court [official website] decision ruled that the state must show compelling reason to deny same-sex marriage. In 1998, Hawaiian voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to reserve for the State Legislature the authority to define marriage. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and is set to become legal in Washington DC [JURIST reports], pending Congressional inaction. New Jersey has recognized same-sex civil unions [JURIST report] since 2006.

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