Civil unions near the finish line
During the same-sex marriage fight of the 1990’s, I once suggested settling it by taking a couple of the more reasonable advocates for the two sides — the late Tom Gill for the pro’s and Jack Hoag for the anti’s — and locking them in a room until they found a compromise that most people could agree to.
The idea of civil unions wasn’t fully conceived at the time, but I figured something like that was what they’d ultimately come up with.
Taking the word “marriage” out of the equation and making it purely a matter of equal protection under the law, I thought, might strip away some of the strong emotions that were dividing us.
It took a decade and far better minds than mine to pull the concept together, and emotions have by no means been absent from the civil unions debate of the last three years.
But after the November election decisively settled the question of whether voters were OK with extending the legal rights of marriage to gays, I’ve been impressed by the orderly manner in which the issue has moved through the 2011 Legislature.
Both sides have appeared at House and Senate hearings to have their say, but there’s been nowhere near the crowds or rancor of previous years.
With the Senate already passing a civil unions bill and House approval a virtual certainty after the measure won broad support in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, the bill appears on track to clear the Legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie within a month.
The reasonably respectful tone of the discussion this year offers hope that we’ll be able to implement the new law in a way that strengthens our community rather than divides us further.