Oahu Democrats moved Saturday to temper an intraparty fight over traditional marriage and focus on persuading Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state Legislature to return in special session to consider marriage equality.
Democrats voted to reject a recommendation from an investigative panel that state Sen. Mike Gabbard be reprimanded for sponsoring a constitutional amendment on traditional marriage last session. After the vote, the gay activist who had filed a complaint against Gabbard alleging that the bill violated the party’s platform on equal rights agreed to withdraw a pending complaint against state Rep. Sharon Har, who had sponsored an identical bill and was facing a potential censure in October.
By dispatching the complaints, Democrats hope to remove an obstacle for a special session on gay marriage. Abercrombie and the state Senate appear open to a special session, but state House leaders have said that the complaints have complicated the discussion.
Oahu Democrats voted Saturday to urge lawmakers to go into special session on gay marriage instead of waiting to address the issue during the next session of the Legislature in January. The U.S. Supreme Court rulings in June that same-sex couples who are legally married are entitled to federal benefits have renewed calls for gay marriage in Hawaii.
Same-sex and heterosexual couples in Hawaii can enter into civil unions and receive the same rights and benefits of marriage under state law, but not federal law.
House and Senate leaders have said they do not have the two-thirds’ support necessary for a special session, leaving the decision up to Abercrombie, who has the power to call lawmakers back. The governor, his aides have said, has been waiting for a signal that the House has the votes for gay marriage.
“I think the main take-away from this is that the Oahu County committee has recommended that the Legislature work as quickly as possible to try to pass marriage equality legislation,” said Josh Wisch, the chairman of the Oahu Democrats.