By Derrick DePledge
State House Speaker Joseph Souki has rejected a request by House Republicans to remove Rep. Cynthia Thielen, the only Republican who supports marriage equality, from the House Judiciary Committee.
Republicans, who are part of Souki’s leadership coalition, wanted to replace Thielen with another Republican who opposes gay marriage.
Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe) and Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) are the two Republicans who serve on the House Judiciary Committee, which will likely hold a hearing on a gay marriage bill in special session this week and appears to have the votes to advance the legislation.
Rep. Gene Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Queen’s Gate-Hawaii Kai) confirmed Sunday that Republicans had made the request.
“I said `no,’,” Souki (D, Waihee-Waiehu-Wailuku) said. “There’s no reason. She has not done anything wrong.”
Other House leaders said their practice is to not make changes to the committee lineup midstream unless the lawmaker involved consents or should be removed for cause.
Thielen, who is liberal on social issues and known for her defense of the environment, is the only Republican at the Legislature who favors marriage equality. The six other House Republicans, and the lone Republican in the state Senate, oppose gay marriage.
Thielen could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.
*Update: Thielen responded on Monday morning via text:
"I've been a mainstream Republican since college days. Social conservatives have hijacked our party to push their social agenda.
"I refuse to cave in to their demand to get off (the) Judiciary committee. As a Republican I support marriage equality and believe we should pass the bill now.
"Remember, Teddy Roosevelt created the national parks. Barry Goldwater supported gays in the military and was pro-choice. Then religion and people with social agendas took over. If our party ever will become relevant, we need mainstream members to fight for tolerance, for less government control over peoples' lives."