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Civil unions approval expected today

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 1:40 a.m. HST, Feb 16, 2011

Approval of a bill to legalize civil unions is taking a day longer than anticipated.

As the Senate prepared for a final vote on the measure yesterday, Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked for a one-day postponement out of an "abundance of caution" to ensure the bill met all legal notice requirements.

"I am eminently confident that the Senate has met every legal requirement on this measure," said Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe).

"However, it is my recommendation as chair, based on the circumstances, that this measure is so important that it is prudent and reasonable to wait another 24 hours," he added. "I am more than happy and prepared to defend the merits of the bill (today)."

The vote is expected when the Senate convenes for its regular session today at 11:30 a.m.

Senators also are scheduled to take up the final vote on Associate State Supreme Court Justice Sabrina McKenna, Gov. Neil Abercrombie's first judicial appointment. McKenna, who is openly gay, has been cited by Hee as someone whose rights have been infringed on because the state does not recognize civil unions.

The vote on her nomination is expected to come before the final vote on civil unions, Senate Bill 232. Her nomination was unanimously approved by the Judiciary and Labor Committee.

Senate Bill 232 would allows couples — either of the same sex or opposite sex — to enter into civil unions, a legal status with all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of traditional marriage.

The Senate approved the measure 19-6 late last month. House members approved the bill 31-19 last week.

If approved by the Senate, as expected, Abercrombie would have 10 days from the time the bill reaches his desk to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Abercrombie has said he would sign the legislation.


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