As the House in the US state of Hawaii gears up to debate around Senate Bill 1, which could legalise equal marriage, one representative has filed a lawsuit which aims to halt it in its tracks.
Representative Bob McDermott insisted that, despite Governor Neil Abercrombie, and other legislators’ impression that a 1998 ballot gives the state legislature power in all further decisions on same-sex marriage, the ballot actually sets out a limit on legislative authority.
In a statement today, McDermott said: “I was there in 1998 as a member of the State House… a claim few in office today can make. The people thought they were answering the question once and for all. However, the horrible language that was foisted upon the people by the Senate Judiciary committee at the time left us with no choice but to accept the amendment. This explains the mess we are in today.”
The 1998 amendment reads: “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.” On November 3, 1998, Hawaii voters approved the amendment by a vote of 69.2–28.6%, and the state legislature exercised its power to ban same-sex marriage.
McDermott, a father of eight, is leading a campaign to halt the legislation. He claims that, given the chance to vote, Hawaiians would vote again to ban equal marriage.
Polls, however, suggest that Hawaiians are in favour of legalising equal marriage. The state allows civil unions, but those do not automatically qualify couples for federal benefits.
Governor Neil Abercrombie released a draft for the bill in August. If Hawaii legalises same-sex marriage, it would become the 15th US state to do so.
The legislation is expected to easily pass in the Senate, and also appears to have enough support to pass in the House, reports Hawaii News Now, which does report that it may be tight.