My decision to call the state Legislature into special session this October was based on doing what is right to create equity for all in Hawai'i.
Since last June's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I have received many emails, letters and telephone calls from constituents on both sides of the marriage equity issue. Whether or not they were in favor of equal rights for same-sex couples, I responded with personal assurance that my administration would continue its due diligence to remain accessible, transparent and open in consideration of all views and legal considerations.
Although I had the authority to call a special session immediately, the Legislature needed to be engaged for it to be meaningful. The best approach is a collaborative one, where my administration works together with the Legislature to craft a measure covering all legal and societal aspects of the issue at hand.
Government That Works
Governor Neil Abercrombie
Last month, I shared with legislators and the news media a marriage equity bill based on Senate Bill 1369, which was introduced in the 2013 regular session. Community input was taken into consideration while the state Attorney General's office worked closely with elected officials and a number of legislative staff to craft and further refine the bill.
As a former legislator, I have great respect for the Legislature and the legislative process. The merits of holding a special session include the opportunity for the Legislature to focus squarely on this important issue, without having to divert attention to the hundreds of other bills introduced during a regular session. More importantly, if full advantage of various tax and other financial issues is to be achieved for citizens, passage before the end of the calendar year is essential.
Since the Supreme Court's DOMA decision, the IRS and the Treasury Department have ruled that same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions recognizing their marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. In addition, the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs announced that gay married couples will be eligible for veteran's benefits, and the Pentagon announced that married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same healthcare, housing and separation benefits as married opposite-sex couples.
In Hawai'i, we value fairness, justice and human equality, and everyone is entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. As Oct. 28 nears and the Legislature prepares to convene in special session, I encourage citizens to remain engaged in the legislative process by providing civil and informed input to their legislators.
The latest version of the marriage equity bill is available at governor.hawaii.gov (Click on "Marriage Bill" under "Useful Links").