Under Section 10 of Article III of the State Constitution, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has called both houses of the state Legislature to convene in a special session on Oct. 28 to address the issue of marriage equity.
"The decision to call a special session is based on doing what is right to create equity for all in Hawaii," Gov. Abercrombie said. "As a former legislator, I have great respect for the Legislature and the legislative process. The merits of holding a special session include the opportunity for the Legislature to focus squarely on this important issue, without having to divert attention to the hundreds of other bills introduced during a regular session. In addition, if full advantage of various tax and other financial issues is to be achieved for citizens, passage before the end of the calendar year is essential."
Since last June's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department have ruled that same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions recognizing their marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs announced that gay married couples will be eligible for veteran's benefits, and the Pentagon announced that married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same health care, housing and separation benefits as married opposite-sex couples.
"My office has received many e-mails, letters and telephone calls from constituents on both sides of the marriage equity issue, and I have responded with assurance that my administration will meet our responsibilities for due diligence in consideration of all views and legal considerations," the Governor added. During a special session, all constitutional and legal requirements that govern the Legislature must still be met. The House and Senate internal rules are also the same, both of which require a public hearing before any bill is passed.
Last month, the Governor shared with legislators and the news media a marriage equity bill based on Senate Bill 1369, which was introduced in the 2013 regular session. Community input was taken into consideration while the state Attorney General's office worked closely with elected officials and a number of legislative staff to craft and further refine the bill.