HI Gov Gives Gay Marriage Bill To Lawmakers

by Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

Thursday August 29, 2013

HONOLULU - Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday presented state lawmakers with a draft of legislation that would legalize gay marriage in Hawaii.

The governor stopped short of saying he would call a special session to pass the bill but said it was a clear possibility.

He spoke at an afternoon rally outside the state Capitol and to reporters afterward. The rally, organized by the Honolulu chapter of MoveOn.org, was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Abercrombie told reporters he would not rush a special session, or call one without lawmakers having a clear idea of what to do.

"I'm simply not going to consider a special session if it becomes something that gets dragged out and a recycling of previous history," he said. "The bill's there, we're going to make ourselves available."

He said his administration would let lawmakers digest the bill, and then discuss whether to have a special session.

According to an 18-page draft of the legislation released by Abercrombie's office, Hawaii would begin issuing licenses Oct. 3, with ceremonies allowed to begin Nov. 1.

If lawmakers pass a bill, Hawaii would join 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have legalized gay marriage. Hawaii is already among a handful of states that allow same-sex civil unions, which gay marriage advocates say stop short of providing the full benefits of marriage.

Proponents of gay marriage in the state renewed their efforts after seeing two U.S. Supreme Court rulings come down in line with their views. One ruling granted federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal.

Abercrombie is a central player on the issue in Hawaii because he has the power to call lawmakers into special session. He has said he thinks a special session is likely, though he has not yet called for one.

On Wednesday, Abercrombie repeatedly used the phrase "if and when" when referring to the possibility of a special session, first at the end of his nearly 14-minute rally speech then repeatedly to reporters afterward.

As Abercrombie left the rally and headed toward an elevator, advocates at the rally chanted "special session."

Hawaii's Legislature is made up mostly of Democrats, but House and Senate leaders were unable to wrangle the two-thirds support needed to call a special session on the issue.

Church leaders on both sides of the issue have been outspoken recently, wanting state laws to coincide with their beliefs.

The rally comes as Americans around the country marked an iconic day in the history of the civil rights movement, King's speech and the March on Washington.

Speaking from the same steps where King spoke 50 years ago, President Barack Obama challenged new generations to take up the cause of racial equality.

Around the country, people rang bells at 3 p.m. local time to mark King's famous line: "Let freedom ring."

Abercrombie led bell-ringing ceremonies at a Methodist church in Honolulu before the rally at the state Capitol.

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