HONOLULU, Hawaii – The Joint House Judiciary and Finance Committees passed Senate Bill 1 – House Draft 1 – relating to equal rights, out of committee. All it took was five days and nearly 57 hours of testimony.
In a close 18 to 12 vote (8-to-5 in the Judiciary Committee and 10-to-7 in Finance), the bill was amended to broaden the exemptions for religious organizations and those performing solemnizations. The measure now goes before the full House of Representatives for a vote on second reading. A third and final House reading is expected to take place on Friday at the earliest, at which point it will go back to the State Senate.
If it becomes law, SB 1 HD 1 would recognize marriages between individuals of the same gender. In addition, the measure extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage to which opposite-sex couples are presently entitled.
Here’s a quick look at the amendments to the bill, provided to us by House of Representatives:
|REFUSAL TO SOLEMNIZE A MARRIAGE
RIGHT OF PARENTS
Governor Neil Abercrombie, who called the special legislative session to decide the matter, and State Attorney General David Louie were pleased with the results.
“The amendments outlined in House Draft 1 strike a balance between the bill that was introduced by the Legislature and concerns raised in written and oral testimony during public hearings,” stated a joint news release. “We support the principle that any measure on marriage equity must protect religious freedom, which the Legislature has clearly worked to achieve. The bill as amended is legally sound and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution. We urge the Legislature to pass this bill, which will provide marriage equity and fully recognize religious beliefs in that context.”
The GOP was not so happy. House Republicans released their internal count of oral testimony, showing 87 percent in opposition to Senate Bill 1. The unofficial count of 1,032 oral testifiers found 895 in opposition and 137 in support.
“It’s imperative that decision makers have an accurate picture of public sentiment before casting their votes,” said Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson in a media release. “A clear majority of Hawaii residents who dedicated hours, and in many cases days, to testify oppose the bill. Over the last five days of testimony, we heard again and again that this bill leaves too many questions for the courts to answer, that religious rights are not thoroughly protected, and that people feel rushed and frustrated by the process of this special session. We need to be sensitive to the many concerns and objections to this bill overwhelmingly expressed in the committee hearing.”
“This issue has inspired an unprecedented level of public involvement, and I hope that continues,” said Rep. Beth Fukumoto. “My concern with rushing this committee vote is that members have still not had the time to properly review the effects of the amendments or to review the many thousands of pages of written testimony to find and consider the opinions submitted by our own constituents. We spent many hours in the hearing, but the amount of time allowed by this special session is still completely insufficient. It’s my hope that my colleagues will listen to the clear voices of our constituents and give this bill the time it deserves in a regular legislative session. The effects of this issue, especially upon religious rights, deserve more consideration to be properly examined.”
The House says there were 5,184 registered testifiers and nearly 24,400 written testimonies submitted. “As far as House members could recall,” said House generated media release, “the public hearing on SB1 was the longest hearing on a single bill in the modern history of the Hawaii House of Representatives.”