Hawaii state Rep. Jo Jordan (D) may have made history with her vote on the marriage equality bill. Jordan, who is openly lesbian, voted against the bill on the House floor on Wednesday. According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, this makes her the first known openly gay lawmaker to vote against marriage equality.
Jordan had reservations about the bill before Hawaii’s special session even began. Last week, she explained that she was undecided, because even though 75 percent of her constituents support marriage equality, she felt she had to represent the entire state. She seemed to be unaware that statewide polling showed a 55 percent majority support marriage equality.
The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) did little to convince Jordan that the state’s civil unions would no longer suffice: “Has anybody been denied before DOMA or after DOMA — what has changed in our state? These are questions that I still have to settle in myself and that’s why I’m undecided.” This is in spite of the fact that federal agencies have explicitly said in the months since the DOMA decision that civil unions will not be counted for most federal marriage benefits, including tax benefits, Social Security, and any partner benefits for federal employees.
Jordan said she might not be sure about supporting the bill until its third vote, and she was clearly not ready in time for its second vote on Wednesday. She explained on the floor that she was moved by the five days of testimony, during which several thousand opponents of marriage equality flooded the House in what some have called an attempted “citizens’ filibuster.” She even openly referred to her identity in defending her no vote:
No, nobody’s going to beat me up. Nobody’s going to throw me out of my (LGBT) community — I’m not quite sure of that… I might vote against something that I personally believe in. I personally believe I should have the right. You know how hard it is for me to say no? I have to say no.
Denis Dison, senior vice president at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, confirmed to ThinkProgress that there is no prior known example of an openly gay lawmaker casting a vote against marriage equality. The Victory Fund lists Jordan on its website, but he noted that she has not ever attended one of the group’s candidate trainings nor earned its endorsement. Reacting to her vote, Dison said, “It’s hard to understand how a member of the LGBT community could vote against the simple freedom to marry the person they love.”
Jordan has one final opportunity to vote for marriage equality during the third reading vote on Friday.
[updated]Jordan stood by her “no” vote during the final reading. She attempted to explain her position in a rambling interview before the vote, she concluded of the bill, “I can’t say it is written the best that we can provide to all.” During the amendment discussion, she expressed sympathy for religious exemptions that would have allowed for individuals and businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community. [/update]