This article was updated Friday to include comments by the head of the roundtable.
In a letter dated June 4, Gary Kai, executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, argues that the bill was “acted upon in a manner which did not provide time for a meaningful or objective discussion of the many issues that surround the proposed legislation.”
The roundtable recommends that a commission be established to develop a recommendation for the State Legislature to consider in the 2011 session.
“While the bill attempts to address inequalities in rights and benefits for domestic partners, it creates many more new problems,” wrote Kai. “The law stipulates that the implementation be effective 1/1/2010 which is virtually impossible and raises a number of legal issues.”
Kai said the legal issues include implications for inheritance, employment benefits, property rights, pensions and retirement benefits.
Reached Friday, Kai told Civil Beat that the roundtable is not taking a position on civil unions but on the language in HB 444. He said the roundtable has members who support civil unions, and others who oppose them.
But he said the Hawaii Business Roundtable’s letter to Lingle has broad support among its membership.
“It rarely acts independently, so pretty much if it is going to do something it pretty much is a consensus,” said Kai.
The roundtable’s letter could impact the governor’s deliberations over civil unions. While Lingle has spoken with supporters and opponents of the bill, most of the debate thus far has focused primarily on equal rights and moral considerations rather than economic impacts.
Lingle has until June 21 to indicate to the Legislature her intentions on HB 444, and until July 6 to veto, sign, or let the bill become law without her signature.
State Rep. Blake Oshiro, a Democrat and the primary sponsor of HB 444, told Civil Beat he was “disappointed” by the roundtable’s position.
“The bill went through the legislative process and I don’t believe the roundtable testified at any of the hearings,” he said. “That really was the opportunity for public comment or suggestion. It’s not like this bill came out of left field. It would have been easy to comment in the year and a half it floated around.”
“Hawaii’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law in 1995 recommended that Hawaii legalize full marriage for same-sex couples or have a comparable domestic partnership program,” he said. “The other thing is that to complain that this create problems, it’s just not true. Ten states and the District of Columbia have all addressed this through either marriage, domestic partnerships or civil unions. If anything, it’s been an economic boost.”
The roundtable’s membership reads like a who’s-who of Hawaii business and includes Don Horner, president and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank; Bert Kobayashi, founder of the Kobayashi Group; Allan Landon, chairman and CEO of the Bank of Hawaii; David Carey, president and CEO of Outrigger Enterprises; Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines; M.R.C. Greenwood, president of the University of Hawaii System; Harry Saunders, president of Castle & Cooke Hawaii; Dee Jay Mailer, CEO of Kamehameha Schools; Constance Lau, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries; Arthur Ushijima, president and CEO of Queen’s Health Systems; H. Mitchell D’Olier, president and CEO of Kaneohe Ranch Co.; Nate Smith, president, Oceanic Cablevision Inc.; and Allen Uyeda, president and CEO of First Insurance Co. of Hawaii.
Attempts by Civil Beat to reach Horner and Carey, both executive committee members, were unsuccessful.
Because HB 444 was introduced in the 2009 session, the bill was to take effect Jan. 1, 2010. The bill passed the Legislature in the 2010 session, without changing the language about the date it would become effective. The House took a dramatic vote to approve the measure on the final day of the session.
The issue of the date raised by the roundtable has been been addressed by the attorney general’s office.
An opinion dated Nov. 25, 2009, states that the date does not invalidate the legislation.