Civil Unions and Haleakala Lawsuits
February 23, 2011 | 01:19 PMHawaii Gets Civil
"This is a great day for all Hawaii families," said Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal, one of several organizations fighting on the front lines of the state's protracted civil union battle. Now—after numerous setbacks, false starts and crushing eleventh-hour defeats—gay-rights advocates can celebrate.
On February 16 the Senate passed the final version of SB232, which the House approved five days earlier. (Among Maui legislators, only Rep. Joe Souki, a Democrat, and Rep. George Fontaine, a Republican, voted against it).
"I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha," said Gov. Abercrombie in a statement released before he signed the bill. "I appreciate all the time and effort invested by those who shared their thoughts and concerns. This has been an emotional process for everyone involved, but that process is now ended."
The other side—a well-organized coalition composed mostly of church groups—surely disagrees, and legal and legislative challenges may follow. For now, however, state-recognized same-sex nuptials can commence, beginning January 2012.
In an interesting twist, on February 17—the day after SB232's passage—Facebook added "in a civil union" to its list of marital status options. (That's also the day Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Hawaii-born President Obama at a tech pow wow in California.) Whether the two events are related isn't clear—Facebook hasn't commented on the change—but there's no question the law has far-reaching implications.
Trails And Tribulations
For more than 70 years, Haleakala Ranch has illegally restricted access to a historically significant trail—and the state has failed to do anything about it. That's according to a lawsuit filed this week by Public Access Trails Hawaii (PATH) and three Maui residents, including former state Representative Joe Bertram.
Dave Brown, a founding member of PATH who also serves on the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Na Ala Hele Advisory Council, said the group has been trying "for many years" to get the ranch to allow access to the footpath, which runs through Makawao and Olinda.
PATH attorney Tom Pierce said documents "definitively show that first the Kingdom of Hawaii and then later the Territory of Hawaii exerted continuous possession over Haleakala Trail." And, Pierce argues, the Highways Act of 1892, which protects public roads and trails, "preserves the state's ownership."
The suit asks the court to declare that the trail is owned by the state and for injunctive relief against Haleakala Ranch.
Major League Mauians
Their teams, positions and salaries vary widely, but with the arrival of Spring Training Maui's three pro baseball players have one important thing in common: each is on a Major League roster.
Last season ended in disappointment for St. Anthony grad Shane Victorino, as his Philadelphia Phillies failed in their bid for a third straight World Series appearance. Victorino, 30, did win another Gold Glove for his centerfield play—and enjoyed the fruits of a new contract that will pay him $17 million over the next two years. Plus, the Phillies added All-Star Cliff Lee to an already impressive pitching rotation and enter 2011 as the odds-on favorites to win the National League.
Kula-born Kurt Suzuki hit a mediocre .242 for the equally mediocre Oakland A's, but the 27-year-old catcher has three years and $14 million left on his contract—meaning he'll be given ample opportunity to bounce back.
Meanwhile, relief pitcher Kanekoa Texeira—another Kula boy—signed a one-year deal with the cellar-dwelling Kansas City Royals worth about $400,000. Texeira, 25, made his big-league debut in 2010 with the Seattle Mariners but was cut loose after posting an unsightly 5.30 ERA in 16 appearances.
Exhibition games began this week, and the Phillies, A's and Royals will play their season openers in late March and early April. The soonest two Maui players could meet (assuming no one changes teams) will be May 6, when Oakland starts a three-game series in Kansas City.
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