HONOLULU, Hawaii – An entire day of testimony on Senate Bill 1 – relating to marriage equality – was heard at the State Capitol on Thursday. Many celebrated Halloween by taking time to stand in line in the hopes of speaking before the Joint House Committee on Judiciary and Finance.
At the arrival of the midnight “witching hour”, lawmakers decided to halt the hearing. The meeting will continue Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. The proceeding nearly continued into the early morning hours, but an outburst from Rep. Gene Ward apparently led committee chairs Rep. Karl Rhoads and Rep. Sylvia Luke to rethink their decision to power through.
In making his argument, Ward referred to a House media release that read:
|To accommodate the expected high numbers of people wishing to testify on SB1 and to allow testifiers to plan their time accordingly, the House Judiciary and Finance Committees plan to begin the public hearing at 10am and end at midnight. At that time if there are people who signed up to testify still waiting to speak, the hearing will be continued on Friday, November 1 at a time to be determined.|
On Thursday, conservatives rallied in opposition to the bill, spurred in part by calls to action from House Republicans. “Trick or Treat and Testify at the Capitol Today!” read an afternoon email. “Many offices will welcome trick-or-treaters to the Capitol tonight for Halloween because we understand that families who would like to participate in the public debate should not have to miss out on family fun. Children are also welcome to Halloween festivities from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.”
GOP alerts continued as the hour grew late. “Calling all testifiers! Your number could be called at any time,” read a Hawaii House Republican email. “If you would like to testify in person or send in written testimony to the committees, it’s not too late! New testifiers can sign up in-person at the Capitol Auditorium (on the Chamber level) until midnight tonight.”
“I have several gay and lesbian family members, and I love them all,” said Amanda Nance, who spoke in strong opposition to the bill. “Every time I am with them I am afraid that I will hurt their feelings because of my personal views. However, this matter is not about addressing my personal feelings, but the future of people of Hawaii, born and unborn.”
“You were elected to protect the rights and work as the voices of all the people of Hawaii,” Nance told the lawmakers. “Let the voices be heard”.
“We proclaim that marriage is between and man and a woman and is ordained of God, and that family is central to the Creator’s plan.” said Paliku Kahalepuna, who had been at the Capitol waiting to speak since 8 o’clock, with his son. He said he was cranky. “There is still people (outside) pounding the pavement. Waving signs. For us, in opposition. Listen to them!”
Hawaii Island watched the proceedings live on a Na Leo o Hawaii TV simulcast, or on different network internet streams. Some Big Island residents even made the trip to Oahu to testify in person.
Elena Cabatu, a Hawaii County Commissioner on the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, was one of the Hawaii Island residents who made the trip to support SB1. She told her story to illustrate the importance of the legislature’s decision to her family: which includes her partner, Theresa Gennette, and her daughter Elsa Marie, born January of last year.
“Elsa is the light of our lives and in the coming year or two, we hope to give her the greatest gift parents may give their first born: a sibling,” testified Cabatu. “While Theresa’s adoption of Elsa was a joyful occasion marking her as Elsa’s legal mother, we had to pay thousands of dollars to make this happen. Had Theresa been Thomas, we would not have experienced this inequality and Theresa’s status as a legal parent would have been instant and unquestioned. From a personal perspective, our story and the milestones we have experienced are not much different from any other family.”
“It is not an overstatement or exaggeration to say members of these Committees hold our lives in their hands,” Cabatu continued. “You will determine equal rights for my family. You will determine if our future second child will be born in a new era of civil rights. You will also determine if Theresa and I will be able to be legally married next summer and be seen equal under the law among other married couples. The time for marriage equality is now.”