The Hawaii House of Representatives has passed a special session bill legalizing gay marriage, setting up a final approval by the state Senate before it's sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature.
House lawmakers approved the bill Friday night after a 12-hour session with breaks, capping more than a week of public testimony and debate that drew passionate crowds both for and against gay marriage.
The measure to allow same-sex couples to wed starting Dec. 2 passed 30-19 with two lawmakers excused.
The bill needs renewed approval from the Senate because of changes made by two House committees. The Senate passed an earlier version last week.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has previously urged both chambers to pass the bill as currently written.
The Senate is expected to consider the bill Tuesday.
"The Senate is currently reviewing the proposed House amendments to Senate Bill 1," said Senator Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. "Each member will evaluate the House Draft and we will meet to discuss the next appropriate step for the Senate to consider."
The House draft includes amendments, modeled after similar language in Connecticut law, significantly broadening exemptions for religious organizations and clergy performing solemnization. Religious organizations and affiliated nonprofits would be exempted from having to furnish goods, services, or its facilities or grounds for the solemnization or the celebration of solemnizations if it is in violation of its religious beliefs or faith.
It also specifies that clergy and religious officers are not required to solemnize if it is against their religious beliefs or faith. The measure also grants immunity from administrative, civil and legal liability to religious organizations and officials for the failure or refusal to provide services, goods, or facilities as described.
The issue was discussed in House committee hearings spanning five days and nearly 57 hours of public testimony. There were 5,184 registered testifiers, with over 1,000 people testifying, and nearly 24,400 written testimonies submitted. As far as House members could recall, the public hearing on SB1 was the longest hearing on a single bill in the modern history of the Hawaii House of Representatives. Based on concerns and issues raised during the public hearing the bill was amended to expand the religious exemptions for churches and religious organizations that do not want to solemnize same gender marriages.
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