Star-Advertiser: State House Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill 11/8/13

By Star-Advertiser staff & Associated Press

The state House voted to approve the same-sex marriage bill late tonight, sending the measure back to the Senate where it is expected to be approved next week then sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature.

The roll call vote, just after 10 p.m., was 30-19 with two members excused.

Tonight’s approval came after the second marathon hearing this week as hundreds of raucous opponents and proponents demonstrated outside the House chamber, and after more than 55 hours of public testimony over five days of House committee hearings that began last week.

The bill would allow same-sex couples to marry as soon as Dec. 2 but would broaden a religious exemption for churches and religious organizations that do not want to be involved in gay weddings.

Minutes after the vote, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a news release: “I commend the House of Representatives for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward.

“After more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments, and deliberating procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equity for same-sex couples and protects our First Amendment freedoms for religious organizations.”

In an emotional speech on the House floor before the vote, bill supporter Rep. Kaniela Ing, a South Maui Democrat, repeatedly asked, “How many more gay people must God create before we realize that he wants them here?”

The Senate could hear the bill on Tuesday. Senators said Thursday that although they prefer their version of the bill, which contains a narrower religious exemption, they are inclined to take the House version, provided it is not amended further.

“That seems like the prevailing mood of the members I spoke to,” said Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua), chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.

If the Senate agrees to the House version Tuesday, it would go directly to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his expected signature.

Hee said he is not pleased with the broader religious exemption in the House bill. “However, having said that, it doesn’t detract from making second-class citizens first-class citizens,” he said.

Likewise, Abercrombie, a Democrat, earlier indicated that he can support the version that now has been passed by the House.

[Click here to read the full article in the Star-Advertiser.]