East Hawaii News

UPDATE: House Approves Gay Marriages; Bill Heads Back to Senate

November 8, 2013, 9:58 AM HST
* Updated November 9, 1:21 AM
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 ***Updated at 10:12 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8.***

The state House tonight approved a bill allowing same-gender marriages in Hawai`i, sending the matter back to the Senate.

Members of the Senate have reportedly indicated that they are leaning toward accepting the House amendments, rather than hand the matter off to a conference committee.

Following tonight’s vote, Sen. Clayton Hee issued a statement saying the Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Tuesday to consider the House amendments.

The amended version has been endorsed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

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Tonight’s 30-19 vote, with two excused, came shortly after 10 p.m. after 12 hours of deliberation that consisted mostly of dealing with about a dozen amendments raised by opponents of the bill.

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Time and time again, the proposed changes were turned away by floor votes.

One of the amendments proposed on the House floor by Republican Rep. Gene Ward would have extended the bill’s religious exemptions to small business people “of conscience.”

Senate Bill 1 was amended by the House on Tuesday to allow churches and pastors to abstain from participating in gay marriage ceremonies if they conflicted with their beliefs.

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Ward said the religious exemptions didn’t go far enough.

In its current form, Ward said, wedding cake makers and photographers “are going to be hurting.”

He used as an example how members of the Muslim faith would be affected if the Legislature were to pass a law requiring the public to eat pork.

GOP Rep. Bob McDermott said to not include the businesses in the exemption would be tantamount to denying people their religious freedom.

“We need to protect the business people,” he said.

Rep. Chris Lee, a Democrat, said no other state has codified this type of exemption, adding it could lead to discrimination. He said it could allow a business owner opposed to gay marriages to put a sign in his store saying “no gays allowed.”

One of the final speakers tonight was Rep. Jo Jordan, the only openly gay member of the House.

Jordan, who represents part of leeward Oahu, on Wednesday acknowledged her opposition to the bill despite her sexual orientation.

Tonight she said she was “blasted” after her acknowledgement, but would not change her position because of the criticism.

“I’m sorry to say, with a heavy heart, I’m still in opposition,” she said, adding that she didn’t believe the bill was in keeping with “religious freedom and conscience.”

Vocal responses came periodically from the public gallery despite procedures enacted for today’s session designed to prevent disruptions.

That prompted several admonitions from House Speaker Joe Souki, who warned that more outbursts would result in ejections.

However, cheering and chanting of “let the people vote” continued during final comments made by representatives, primarily during and after statements from the bill’s opponents.

“I know you’re feeling passionate, but please keep your passion to yourself,” Souki said at one point.

Posted at 9:58 a.m.:

The state House is poised this morning to take a final vote on its version of the bill legalizing same-sex marriage – under new restrictions for crowd control apparently designed to minimize conflicts between opponents and supporters of the legislation.

The House floor session is scheduled to get underway at 10 a.m.

If the bill is approved as expected — it passed 30-18 on its second House vote Wednesday — it will go back to the Senate for consideration of amendments made by the House.

House officials are apparently trying to head off the demonstrations and verbal clashes between opposing sides that marked the five days of testimony that took place in and around the capital.

The displays, which included chanting and singing — and in one case opponents of the bill attempting to shout down an impromptu press conference held by a group of ministers in support — at times even disrupted lawmakers’ deliberations of the bill.

Opponents of the measure earlier this week indicated they would be out in force for the final House vote.

House officials last night issued a press release outlining “operational logistics” that were developed after discussions were held with leaders of both sides of the marriage equality issue.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Kuroda detailed the measures at a press conference Thursday designed “to ensure a safe and fair environment for the public and others.”

They include designated zones for each side in the Capitol Rotunda and House Gallery and for sign-waving along both sides of Beretania Street fronting the Capitol.

Joining Kuroda were “representatives from those is support and opposition of the issue” including Lois Perrin of the American Civil Liberties Union and two pastors, Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Oahu and Allen Cardines of New Hope Nanakuli.

The proceedings will be televised live on Channel 54 for Oahu, and streamed online statewide at http://www.olelo.org/.

 On the neighbor islands, it will be shown on the Big Island at Na Leo O Hawaii (www.naleo.tv  — phone (808) 935-8874 in Hilo or (808) 329-9617 in Kona, on Maui at Akaku:  Maui Community Television (www.akaku.org – phone (808) 871-5554) and on Kauai  at Ho’ike Community Television  (www.hoike.org – phone (808) 246-1556.

Web-streaming will also be available through the public-access television sites on the Big Island and Maui.

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