Hawaii House Committees Pass Marriage Equality Bill After Five Days Of Testimony

After five days of public testimony in a joint House Judiciary & Finance Committee hearing, the 30-member panel voted Tuesday to pass Hawaii’s marriage equality legislation. The bill will now go to the full House for a vote.

Sign wavers in support of marriage equality stand outside of the Hawaii State Capitol Monday. Michelle Broder Van Dyke / Via BuzzFeed

HONOLULU — After more than 55 hours of testimony, the joint House committees voted Tuesday to pass Hawaii’s marriage equality bill, Senate Bill 1. The House Judiciary Committee and Finance Committee voted 18 to 12. The bill now goes to the full House for a final vote.

The vote comes during a special session called by Gov. Abercrombie for Hawaii’s marriage equality bill, and after a Senate hearing by the Committee of Judiciary and Labor and a full Senate vote to send the bill to the House.

Before they voted, the House committees amended Senate Bill 1 to broaden a religious exemption that allows religious leaders to refuse service for same-sex marriage ceremonies and moved the effective date from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2.

People watch the joint committees hearing on TV from the Hawaii State Capitol rotunda Monday. Michelle Broder Van Dyke / Via BuzzFeed

The general public was allowed to register to testify until midnight on the first day of the House hearing Thursday, Oct. 31. By the end of day, 5,184 people received registered numbers for testimony.

Testifiers were allowed to speak for two minutes. It was decided on Friday, Nov. 1, those who missed their numbers would be allowed another opportunity to testify after the more than 5,000 registered numbers had been called.

The line wraps around the corner to enter the hearing Monday. Michelle Broder Van Dyke / Via BuzzFeed

Lawmakers in the House made it clear from the beginning they would listen to everyone, while conservative religious leaders encouraged testifiers to use up their allotted times and delay the hearing. Conservatives attempted to stall the bill in hopes of defeating it.

New Hope Metro Pastor Elwin Ahu explained on Facebook how to stall the hearing:

Monday morning lawmakers announced there would be tighter procedures for testifying at the hearing, including showing a photo ID, after allegations surfaced that people were testifying under registration numbers that did not match their names.

People pray in the Hawaii State Capitol rotunda Monday. Michelle Broder Van Dyke / Via BuzzFeed

The most controversial comment was made Monday afternoon by the head of Hawaii’s police union Tenari Maafala, who testified against Senate Bill 1, and said he would never enforce such a law.

“You would have to kill me,” Maafala told the panel of lawmakers at the hearing. He said the bill opposes his religious views.

In this video a Honolulu police officer says “you would have to kill me” to enforce the bill:

On Tuesday afternoon, Chair of the House Finance Committee Sylvia Luke announced the end of testimony and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Karl Rhoads said while thanking staffers and the public that the joint committees hearing was “probably longest hearing ever in the history of Hawaii.”

During the decision making process, the committees amended the bill to broaden a religious exemptions and moved the effective date to Dec. 2.

The bill will head to the full House Wednesday morning for a second reading. Since the bill was amended, it will go back to the senate to be reconsidered, and will then be sent to Gov. Abercrombie for his signature.

The Governor and Attorney General David Louie released a statement after the vote:

“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.”

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