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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hawaii House to decide by Friday whether to vote on civil unions

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

State House Speaker Calvin Say

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State House Speaker Calvin Say said yesterday that he will announce by Friday whether the House will vote on a civil-unions bill and suggested he may not have the two-thirds' majority to override a potential veto.

After a private caucus among majority Democrats, Say said lawmakers will have to consider whether they want to bring the bill to the floor even if they do not have a veto-proof margin, or 34 of 51 lawmakers.

The House passed a civil-unions bill last session, 33-17, with one Democrat who supports the bill absent. Say said support for civil unions may have slipped and put the latest private count at 31 lawmakers in favor.

"It's very, very tight at this point in time. And we're just trying to determine, do we have the votes for the two-thirds?" said Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Pālolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise).

"If we don't have it as one of the conditions, I think the members will have to make a very hard decision."

Some lawmakers are urging that the bill be brought to a vote regardless, since a majority remain in support of civil unions. Others do not want the political exposure of having to vote again unless there is enough support to override a veto so the bill can become law.

The state Senate approved a civil-unions bill on Friday that would give both same-sex and heterosexual couples the ability to enter into civil unions and receive the same rights, responsibilities and benefits as in marriage under state law. The 18-7 vote showed the Senate could override a veto.

Gov. Linda Lingle has not said whether she would veto the bill if it reaches her desk.

"I don't spend time reading things that aren't passed," Lingle told reporters yesterday.