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Same-sex marriage supporters rally at state Capitol

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Feb 11 2013 06:25:00 PM HST

Same-sex marriage supporters are putting the power of the pen to the test. Those with civil unions say the law Hawaii passed in 2011 as a compromise is just not good enough.

HONOLULU -

The group Hawaii United for Marriage held a rally at state Capitol on Monday, urging lawmakers in the House and Senate to schedule committee hearings on bills that would legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii.

Lois Perrin, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said polling indicates there's enough support among legislators to pass marriage equality.

"There are votes on the floor, in both the Senate and the House, to hear these bills," Perrin told reporters. "The time to act is now."

However Rep. Karl Rhoads, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, told KITV4 the votes simply don't exist to legalize same-sex marriage. Although a supporter of gay unions, Rhoads says it would be unwise to bring a measure before his committee if the final outcome in the full House is already known, even if the vote is razor-thin close.

"After consultations with my colleagues, I don't believe we have the political will to pass the measure this session," said Rhoads. "You never know as an individual how you're going to vote until you actually get there, but it would be an extremely close vote."   

Retired Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson was among those who spoke at Monday's rally. Levinson said it's ironic that he can deliver wedding vows in Hawaii, but not to his 41-year-old daughter Jennifer, who's in a committed relationship with another woman in California. In 1993, Levinson authored the majority opinion in Baehr vs. Lewin, which said barring same-sex couples from marrying is discriminatory

"It hurts," said Levinson, when asked about his inability to deliver wedding vows to his daughter. "If California gets marriage equality back, then she can be married there. But, I want to do it. I'm licensed here."

In 2011 Hawaii legislators passed a law legalizing civil unions, but some of those who have received the legal status say the law is still discriminatory.

"No more putting physical characteristics above everything else," said Michelle Swan, who entered a civil union with her partner Rachel Lindsey.  "Put love first," she added.

Meanwhile, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is the latest elected official in Hawaii to support gay marriage. On Monday, the mayor signed the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry petition, which was begun by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  

All four members of Hawaii's congressional delegation have already issued statements supporting same-sex marriage. Last week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie did the same, saying he has always supported "human equality."

Many of those close to the issue also expect President Barack Obama to restate his support of gay marriage during Tuesday's State of the Union speech. In his inauguration address last month, Obama said his support of same-sex marriage is based on the golden rule "to treat others the way you would want to be treated."

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