East Hawaii News

Same-Sex Marriage Bill Moves Over to House

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A bill that would legalize same-gender marriages in Hawaii was overwhelmingly approved today in the Senate. It now moves to the House, where its future is less certain.

The Senate voted 20-4 in favor of Senate Bill 1 on its third reading today.

Those voting against the measure were Republican Sen. Sam Slom and Democratic Sens. Mike Gabbard, Ronald Kouchi and Donna Mercado Kim, who is also the Senate’s president. Sen. Glenn Wakai was absent for the vote.

The bill next goes before a joint hearing of the House committees on Judiciary and Finance which will convene Thursday at 10 a.m.

House officials said today that because of the large amount of testimony anticipated, the hearing will last until midnight. If additional time is needed for more testimony, the hearing will re-convene on Friday at a time yet to be determined.

A hearing on the bill Monday before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor lasted nearly 12 hours, with hundreds of individuals testifying in person and thousands more submitting comments in writing.

The House also announced that it would suspend its usual condition that testimony be submitted 24 hours in advance of the hearing, meaning that comments will be accepted up to and during Thursday’s hearing.

Information on submitting testimony online is available here.

While the Senate approved the bill without changes, House members are considered likely to amend it to grant broader religious exemptions.

The Senate version exempts members of the clergy from having to perform gay wedding ceremonies, but doesn’t extend that to churches that provides such services for a profit.

If the bill is amended by the House, it will go back to the Senate for further consideration, and would not be sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature until the two bodies reach an agreement on its wording.

Members of the House committees will also take up two bills that would have the issue of same-sex marriages decided by voters as an amendment to Hawaii’s constitution.

One of the bills was introduced by Rep. Bob McDermott, one of two Republicans on the House Judiciary committee.

McDermott also attempted to remove fellow Republican Cynthia Thielen from the committee and replace her with Rep. Richard Lee Fale, but that resolution was tabled today.

Thielen is the only Republican member of the Legislature who has expressed support for gay marriages.

Fale introduced the other bill seeking to have voters decide the issue.

Fale’s House Bill 8 refers to the 1998 constitutional amendment that restricted marriages in Hawaii to a man and a woman. It said the “will of the voters” who approved that amendment “has been disregarded by a vocal minority calling for the legislature to radically alter the fabric of society permitting couples of the same sex to marry.”


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