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Civil union opponents regroup after suit filed

Same-sex couples are challenging the veto of a bill to grant them rights and benefits

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 2:41 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2010

A major opponent of a civil unions bill is considering its next move after a lawsuit was filed yesterday challenging the governor's veto of the controversial legislation.

"We're formulating that (plan) right now," said Francis Oda, chairman of the Hawaii Family Forum, which was vocal in objecting to House Bill 444 throughout the legislative session.

Oda said the group expected there would be a legal challenge regardless of whether the bill was approved or rejected.

"Even if 444 had been passed ... a challenge about civil unions not being equal to marriage was ready," Oda said. "So it's just part of the process."

There was no comment from Gov. Linda Lingle's administration on the Circuit Court lawsuit filed on behalf of six gay couples who claim the state's reciprocal beneficiaries law provides only "limited protections" for same-sex couples and denies them the dignity and legal protection granted to heterosexual couples through marriage.

Denying same-sex couples the right to marry discriminates against gays and lesbians and "sends a clear and purposeful message that the state views lesbian and gay people as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, protections and support that heterosexual people and their families enjoy," the suit states.

It seeks a court order that same-sex couples be allowed to enter a legal status, known as a civil union, that would have the same legal rights and responsibilities that other couples can acquire through marriage.

The lawsuit stems from Lingle's veto of the bill, which would have given same-sex and heterosexual couples who enter into civil unions the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as marriage under state law.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Honolulu law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.


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