By Derrick DePledge
State Rep. Denny Coffman issued a statement on Thursday declaring his unwavering support for gay marriage and urged his colleagues to back a special session.
Coffman had sent a memo to state House Speaker Joseph Souki on Wednesday recommending a special committee to analyze a gay marriage bill to fast-track during the regular session that opens in January. He warned against the potential for rushed decision-making in a special session.
But Coffman clarified on Thursday that he had not been aware that House leadership has been working with Gov. Neil Abercrombie's office and the state Attorney General's office on a draft.
In today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, an article referred to a memo I wrote to House leadership. ("Gay marriage vote awaits more vigorous majority", Honolulu Star-Advertiser, August 22, 2013.) In that memo I asked the Speaker "to form a special committee to analyze a gay marriage bill and to fast-track legislation during the regular session." Since no marriage equality bill was heard last session, I was concerned that passing such a measure via a special session without the proper preparation and vetting would run "the risk of overlooked details in the language, rushed decision- making and ultimately, poor policy."
Due to unfortunate and unforeseen family circumstances, I have been away from the Capitol since the end of session. When I left, we were under the impression that a special session would not be called. My motive in writing the memo was to push the House to prepare a clean, vetted bill for introduction and prompt passage in the regular session. I was unaware that House leadership has been working with the Governor and the Attorney General – reviewing the legislation in detail and preparing a solid draft for earlier consideration.
I want to correct the record because the Star-Advertiser article quoted "House sources" saying that my memo "could lead other supporters to have second thoughts about a special session." I have been unwavering in my support of marriage equality and would not want anyone to have second thoughts about marriage equality or a special session.
The primary concern I wanted to express in my memo is that the legislature must perform its due diligence in addressing this important issue. I wanted to ensure that the necessary resources and processes were utilized to develop a sound and sustainable policy. Knowing that our highest levels of government are actively working to craft and vet such a bill gives me confidence that my concern has been addressed. I thus invite my colleagues to join me in full support of a special session to pass marriage equality and end discrimination against same-gendered couples.