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House panels pass gay marriage bill after 55 hours of testimony

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 7:55 p.m. HST, Nov 5, 2013

State House lawmakers agreed this evening to advance a marriage equality bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry but would expand a religious exemption to better protect religious freedom.

The bill cleared the House Judiciary and Finance committees after lawmakers heard an unprecedented 55-and-a-half hours of public testimony at a hearing that spanned over five days.

The full House will consider the bill Wednesday morning on second reading, a critical procedural threshold that will reveal the degree of support for the bill.

The bill that passed the committees would model the religious exemption on Connecticut law, which is considered among the broadest of states that allow gay marriage.

The bill would also strip out a reference to parental rights after concerns were raised about the potential impact on how Native Hawaiian ancestry would be recorded.

The bill would also change the effective date to Dec. 2, instead of Nov. 18.

The two committees had agreed to hear from all of the 5,184 people who had signed up to testify, and more than 1,000 showed up to speak to lawmakers in person. The overwhelming majority of people who showed up to testify were opposed to the bill, mostly for religious reasons.

Religious leaders who had launched a "People's Filibuster" to prolong the hearing stood down on Tuesday, as only a few dozen people came to the state Capitol to testify compared to the hundreds who were on hand late Monday.

The state Senate, which approved its version of a marriage equality bill last week, would review the bill again if it clears the House. Senators could agree to the House version and send the bill to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, or could disagree, triggering a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences.

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