UPDATE: Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Committee 5-2
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by Dave Smith
***Updated at 9:42 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, with the results of the vote, and again at 11:20 a.m. and 12:13 p.m. with additional details.***
Working late into the night, a Senate committee voted 5-2 Monday to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in Hawaii.
Following last night’s vote, which took place at 10:20 p.m., Senate Bill 1 today was passed by the Senate on the second of three required readings, with the third reading scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. If it passes that vote, as expected, the measure will then move to the House.
It has been scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Thursday at a joint session of the House committees on Judiciary and Finance.
About 425 people testified in person before the committee Monday, with more than 3,000 others submitting testimony via email or other means, a Senate spokeswoman said.
The House committees are asking that testimony for their Thursday meeting be submitted at least 24 hours in advance.
Testimony Monday focused on civil rights and religious rights, depending on the view of the testifier, with some saying that such a matter should be decided only by the voters. A ballot issue in 1998 defining marriage as being between a man and a woman was passed by 60% of Hawaii voters.
During testimony by Attorney General David Louie, Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee asked whether same-sex couples living could receive the same federal tax benefits that would be granted by SB1 by getting married in another state where gay marriages are legal and then returning to the state.
Louie reportedly said that they could, but would not receive the full federal benefits provided for by the Hawaii bill, and said such a move would also be a burden on the couples. Louie told Hee he would prepare a more detailed study of the relative benefits.
According to the Judiciary’s committee report posted on the Legislature’s website at about noon on Tuesday, information later provided by Louie indicated that it “remains unclear” whether some federal benefits would be available to Hawaii same-gender couples married in other states.
He said those include the federal Family Medical Leave Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and bankruptcy, Social Security and veterans’ benefits.
Given that uncertainty, the committee found that requiring same-gender couples to travel to another state to legally marry “is inequitable from a policy perspective,” its report said.
Those voting in favor of the bill, which has not been amended, were Sens. Hee, Les Ihara, Malama Solomon, Brickwood Galeteria and Maile Shimabukuro. Those voting against it were Sens. Mike Gabbard and Sam Slom.
Posted at 6:27 p.m. Monday:
State lawmakers taking up the matter of gay marriage today were met with a massive amount of public testimony.
After the Legislature convened at 10 a.m., the Senate took its first vote on Senate Bill 1, which was described as recognizing marriages between individuals of the same sex and extending to same-sex couples “the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities that opposite-sex couples receive.”
It passed its first procedural reading this morning with the only “no” vote cast by the Senate’s lone Republican, Sam Slom, who represents the area east of Honolulu from Diamond Head to Hawaii Kai.
The measure was then referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, which after convening at 10:30 a.m. began taking testimony on the bill.
Those speaking before the committee included Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who had requested the special session be held, and Attorney General David Louie.
According to Cassandra Harris, assistant director of Senate communications, about 400 people signed up in advance to give testimony in person in the Senate’s chambers.
A little more than half of those had done so as of 5 p.m.
In addition, thousands more submitted testimony by email, with others indicating they wished to testify in person online.
Harris said it was not known how much longer the committee would hear testimony tonight. The proceedings will continue Tuesday.
If passed out by the Judiciary committee, the bill will be taken up by the Senate on a second reading before being referred to a joint hearing of the House committees on Judiciary and Finance. That has been tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday.
If the Senate and House can agree on a version of the bill it will come to the Legislature’s floor for a third and final reading.
If the two sides differ, a conference committee may be appointed to try to work out a compromise before a third vote is taken.
As done by the Senate Judiciary committee, the House committees are requiring testimony to be submitted to them at least 24 hours prior to the hearing.
They ask that the testimony should include the name of the testifier along with position or title and affiliated organization, if any, and whether they will be testifying in person.
Because of the large amount of testimony anticipated, those testifying in person will be assigned a number to indicate the speaking order.
As it was with the Senate committee, those presenting testimony in person will be divided into groups of 25, with an opportunity for committee members to ask questions after each group finishes. Also, the House committees will follow the Senate’s practice of limiting oral testimony to two minutes.
Information on submitting testimony to the House committees is available here.
Information on the special session is available here.