On Tuesday night, the Hawaii House approved a bill to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot defining marriage as existing between a man and a woman, following a debate in which half of its 51 members rose to speak. Earlier in the day, the Senate had narrowly approved a bill creating “domestic partnerships” for gay couples, giving them the same benefits and obligations that married couples have under state law but not extending benefits covered by federal law, such as joint tax filing.
A 1993 state Supreme Court decision ruled that it was illegal discrimination to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples unless there is a compelling state interest. According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rey Graulty, domestic partnerships would nullify the 1991 lawsuit (filed by three gay couples), resulting in an almost certain legalization of same-sex marriages.
Unless lawmakers create a compromise by the time the legislative session ends April 29, the question will go back to a lower court on August 1. The House and Senate positions are so far apart, a court decision is more likely than a legislative compromise.