On April 16 the posturing ended when House and Senate conferees agreed with a House version of a constitutional amendment (HB 117, after many drafts) giving the Legislature the power to over-turn the court case Baehr v. Miike (if that case should be decided in favor of same-gender marriage). Next stop: first a floor vote by each House and then to the voters in the General Election of November, 1998. The governor has no veto power over proposed constitutional amendments.
The conferees also agreed to a weakened Senate version of HB 118, giving about 60 rights to "reciprocal beneficiaries" effective July 1, 1997. The Senate conferees demanded the July 1 date for implementation and traded off health benefits. The compromise bill gives health benefits ONLY to state employees (who declare reciprocal beneficiary status) and ONLY for two years. HB 118 requires the governor's signature.
What next? Marriage Project - Hawaii will continue to pursue the
court case, perhaps to completion within 12 months (and before the November
1998 vote). Same-gender marriage supporters will regroup and reorganize
around fighting the Constitutional Amendment vote. For a day or two,
we'll lick our wounds first!
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