Friday, October 3, 2008

Bill Woods

I did not know Bill Woods, but I saw him frequently around the State Capitol during legislative sessions, year after year. Bill passed away after a long illness last weekend; the Honolulu Star-Bulletin writes an editorial on his contributions to civil rights and gay and lesbian rights here.

Here is an excerpt from that piece that places his life in historical perspective:

Largely through Woods' effort, Hawaii law allows gay and lesbian partners rights such as family and bereavement leaves, probate rights and hospital visitation. The Legislature recognized "reciprocal beneficiaries" following a tenacious battle that triggered a national debate a decade ago when Hawaii voters effectively approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Regardless of your position on gay rights, there are still too few of us who believe so passionately on an issue, any issue, and devote the time and energy required to help bring about change.

Hawaii debated a decade ago such humane rights as hospital visitation and bereavement leaves for same-sex couples, yet the issue is still contested in other parts of the country; it came up last night in the VP debates.

From Ballot Box, including their analysis, take a look at some of the ballot initiatives in various states that will be decided in November:

State: Arizona
Issue: Proposition 102, a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution
Analysis: Twenty-seven states have voted on gay marriage bans over the past decade and 26 of them have passed. The one that failed was in Arizona in 2006, where the amendment was worded in a way that would likely have prohibited civil unions and other recognition of same-sex relationships. It received 48% of the vote. This year, the legislature placed a scaled-back version of the ban on the ballot. It only applies to gay marriage. The question is whether that distinction will push the proposal over the 50% mark.

State: Arkansas
Issue: A ban on unmarried cohabitating couples serving as foster parents or adopting children.
Analysis: Social conservatives are pushing this initiative as a way to prohibit gay couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and some social worker organizations are opposed. In a conservative state, the vote will test how far the public is willing to go in terms of restricting gay rights.

State: California
Issue: Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution
Analysis: Thanks to a ruling by the state Supreme Court earlier this year, California became the second state to allow gay marriage. Social conservatives then moved quickly, placing a measure on the ballot to reverse the decision by banning gay marriage in the Constitution. So, a vote this fall will determine the fate of perhaps the hottest-button social issue in the nation's most populous state.

State: Florida
Issue: Amendment 2, a ban on gay marriage and same sex unions "treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof."
Analysis: Florida's ban on gay marriage would be very likely to pass, except that the Sunshine State requires 60% of the vote for constitutional amendments to win approval. That, combined with the broad wording of the amendment (compared to the gay marriage bans on the ballot in Arizona and California), makes this an interesting one to watch. Also of note: Some analysts think the gay marriage vote could affect turnout in the presidential race (although I'm not one of them).

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