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State House panels start hearing from public on gay marriage

By Sarah Zoellick

LAST UPDATED: 03:39 a.m. HST, Nov 01, 2013

After more than three hours of testimony from public officials, the state House Judiciary and Finance committees around 1:25 p.m. Thursday began to hear from the more than 4,000 members of the public who have signed up to testify.

Lawmakers spent more than 2 hours grilling state Attorney General David M. Louie about the bill -- including its religious exemption, how it could affect divorce services in the state, and whether it would affect what is taught to students in schools.

What could turn into days of testimony on a same-sex marriage bill kicked off at 10 a.m.

At one point, House Finance Chairwoman Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuuanu) urged representatives and testifiers to be succinct with asking and answering questions. 

"We haven't even gotten to the public and we're here to listen to the public," she said after the hearing moved into its third hour.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz's wife, Linda, spoke before lawmakers in favor of same-sex marriage. "We decided as a family that we should be here today speaking on behalf of this measure," she said, noting that nearly 8,000 people have signed Schatz's petition in favor of marriage equality.

State Rep. Karl Rhoads chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in his opening remarks this morning that everyone who signs up to testify before midnight will be allowed to testify, and that he and Luke will decide at midnight whether to keep going or resume testimony Friday morning.

"No one who does not sign up by midnight will be allowed to testify," Rhoads (D, Chinatown-Iwilei-Kalihi) said. "Be sure to sign up by midnight."

Rhoads paused Louie's testimony shortly after noon to allow a testifier who required Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations to take the stand out of order with her partner of 20 years. The women were the first non-official testifiers to speak in support of the bill.

Louie resumed answering lawmakers' questions around 12:15 p.m., concluding about 15 minutes later. He was only the second person to testify, following a representative from the governor's office. The departments of Health and Taxation and the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission stepped up in favor of the bill after Louie. 

Director of Health Loretta Fuddy said the department, which manages vital records such as marriage licenses, is prepared if the governor signs a same-sex marriage bill and will not need any additional funds to comply with the proposed law.

Some of the first few testifiers from the public who spoke in favor of gay marriage asked legislators what their definition of religious freedom is. They did so noting that the religion they practice does not prohibit them from marrying members of the same sex, but they cannot marry under the law. The bill would expand religious freedom to all people, they said. 

Testifiers against gay marriage reiterated a request voiced by many before them to let the people of Hawaii decide whether gay marriage should be legal by putting the issue to vote.

The state Senate sent the bill to the House after approving it in a 20-4 vote Wednesday. The vote came after hearing more than 12 hours of testimony on Monday.

Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua), chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, in his speech on Wednesday placed marriage equality into the same historical context as the U.S. Supreme Court's 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which determined that state bans on interracial marriage violated equal protection and due process.

The Senate version of the bill would allow same-sex couples to marry starting Nov. 18 and would recognize that clergy and others have a constitutional right to refuse to perform gay weddings. Churches and other religious organizations would have a narrow exemption from the state's public accommodations law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, as long as churches do not make religious facilities or grounds available to the general public for weddings for a profit.

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and others have urged lawmakers not to undercut the public accommodations law, but the House is expected to expand the exemption to appeal to members with strong concerns about the bill.

Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker who has expressed frustration with the process is hoping to disrupt it with a lawsuit.

State Rep. Bob McDermott said today that he filed the lawsuit Wednesday to try to get a judge to shut the special session down.

McDermott told House members that the lawsuit became appropriate when the Senate passed its gay marriage bill on Wednesday.

He is one of 30 House lawmakers on two committees holding a joint hearing, where thousands of people are expected to testify in two-minute stretches. The hearing is expected to last until midnight, then resume Friday if not everyone has time to testify.


Click here to watch live streaming video of today's testimony before the House.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
I think the evil deed has been done. The 1-2% of the population has imposed their misguided will on the 98%
on October 31,2013 | 10:19AM
HanabataDays wrote:
on October 31,2013 | 10:52AM
Poidogs wrote:
Yes, you have.
on October 31,2013 | 11:48AM
Venus1 wrote:
I would stand with the Gays if they were only two and wanted to get married! Ther 'marriage' has nothing to do with 'my marriage' ,
on October 31,2013 | 11:49AM
retire wrote:
Amen, the sodomites are running the asaylum.
on October 31,2013 | 11:56AM
localguy wrote:
What? You and your wife are at it again. Yikes!!!
on October 31,2013 | 12:50PM
localguy wrote:
Evil deed? Funny how some people think this until they find out their son, daughter, brother, sister, best friend, etc, is gay. Then they have to make the big decision. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they do not. Can't we all just get along?
on October 31,2013 | 12:58PM
jess wrote:
You got real data to back up your numbers?
on October 31,2013 | 03:22PM
thanks4reading wrote:
polls show that a majority of americans support gay marriage. The anti minority position is trying to force their beliefs and religion upon the rest of us.
on October 31,2013 | 03:35PM
Jca43 wrote:
Actually majority of Americans are undecided or don't care enough to vote or participate in any census.
on October 31,2013 | 03:52PM
mokebla wrote:
Just a waste of taxpayers money and time for something the voter voted down. Only in Hawai'i.
on October 31,2013 | 04:10PM
aomohoa wrote:
One Mandan imposes her will on the rest of us. Your point
on October 31,2013 | 06:03PM
8083914084 wrote:
This is something you believe . . . lol
on October 31,2013 | 06:08PM
BRock wrote:
Get real! How can two percent impose their will on the rest of society. As usual, your post is way off base.
on October 31,2013 | 10:55PM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
I think the bold-faced lie is in calling this new thing "marriage" or referring to it as "marriage equality". If the state wants to have a new kind of institution they should call it "couplage" and have neutral rules that include different forms. But to refer to it as "marriage" is the ultimate insult, it demeans and devalues the basic core of marriage, the nuclear family. It steals the name and destroys the meaning of this noble cornerstone of civilization.
on October 31,2013 | 10:30AM
medigogo wrote:
Why don't we call that gayiage and lesbiage?
on October 31,2013 | 10:46AM
thanks4reading wrote:
The doma decision only grants federal benefits to those "married". Semantics is very important in this matter.
on October 31,2013 | 03:36PM
hon2255 wrote:
Amen Famous Amos !
on October 31,2013 | 05:03PM
Hubris808 wrote:
Who edits these articles? The picture caption says State rep and the article says State Senator..... (He's state house rep...)
on October 31,2013 | 10:40AM
localguy wrote:
No. He is an elected bureaucrat. Got to get their real title right.
on October 31,2013 | 12:51PM
frontman wrote:
If this passes.....1)vote all that voted for it out of office, start voting for people that stand for your ideas and not just lock step democrat, break the hold now. 2) If love is not to be denied, a brother can marry a sister, a father and daughter, a mother and son, first cousins, anyone in love. You know how much democrats like their dogs, that should even be allowed. LET THE PEOPLE VOTE ON IT.
on October 31,2013 | 11:03AM
Happysahm wrote:
wow i though i was the only one who felt that way. Thank you all who were brave enough for posting. I feel like if i oppose gay marriage, i get attacked and bullied. It's my right to my religious beliefs and i don't want a group imposing their beliefs on me. Funny how the churches were accussed of that, but it's these groups that are trying to do it to everyone. I don't condemn someone for being gay, but i don't condone it. take a look at what canada is going through after 10 years of gay marriage.
on October 31,2013 | 11:47AM
boshio wrote:
This bill is not for equal rights, but, it this group's way to get an open door key to squeeze the Feds and state for money benefits, which will cost all of us in more taxes and premiums in the near future. I can see the insurance companies licking their chops, great excuse to raise premiums for all.
on October 31,2013 | 12:37PM
localguy wrote:
boshio - Got that all wrong. As there are no limits on the number of married people allowed to file, doesn't matter if they are regular or gay. Cost you more in taxes? Naaahhh. Just another urban legend.
on October 31,2013 | 12:53PM
jess wrote:
Why are you imposing your beliefs on others? Nobody is forcing you to go to a gay wedding. It's not your place to condone or support someone else's sexual orientation.
on October 31,2013 | 03:23PM
jomama wrote:
oh,poor baby. Somebody making you get gay married?
on October 31,2013 | 08:49PM
Venus1 wrote:
Such 'poppycock '!!! The same arguments were presented when the 'likes of you ' tried to keep different races from marrying!
on October 31,2013 | 11:52AM
retire wrote:
A proclivity is not a race.
on October 31,2013 | 11:57AM
8083914084 wrote:
These thoughts are very small-minded and backed by intolerance and hate.
on October 31,2013 | 06:14PM
boshio wrote:
To all the members of the house....VOTE NO.
on October 31,2013 | 11:10AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Kabuki Theater at its finest. The same people saying the same things and expecting a different outcome. The only difference is this is the House and not the senate.
on October 31,2013 | 11:17AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The idea behind taking testimony is to find out how your constituents feel on an issue. Then, the representative is to make a decision based on that input. Not solely, but a lot of weight is given to the wishes of the people.

In this case, both the House and Senate have for days said what the vote will be. Testimony is purely feel good, kabuki, for show, a shibai.

F Troop Legislators: Ready!...Fire!...Aim.

And that is why the people should have th right of a popular vote on this important matter. The folks at the Square Building decide first, check the political winds, and then have a sham testimony fest.

on October 31,2013 | 11:17AM
Jca43 wrote:
True, majority have decided already.
on October 31,2013 | 04:13PM
Kuokoa wrote:
what I would like to know that no one in the news media has posted yet is not only how many are testifying but how many are against and how many are for. then, I would like to see the votes of the legislators go according to the majority testimony. Yeah right, that's going to happen.
on October 31,2013 | 11:39AM
Venus1 wrote:
Not how it works!
on October 31,2013 | 11:54AM
Anonymous wrote:
I'm glad it doesn't.
on October 31,2013 | 11:58AM
Anonymous wrote:
A proclivity is not a race.
on October 31,2013 | 11:58AM
earlson wrote:
I have no problem with same sex marriage. However, I object to the Bill the Senate passed. The Senate Bill does not adequately protect and respect the right of religious organizations and is an attempt to expand Hawaii's equal accommodation law. Does anyone remember what the supporters said when they pushed for the civil union law ...we are not asking for the civil unions as a means to eventually seek same sex marriage... I guess that was not true when they said it back then and it's not true today when they claim that they are not seeking to infringe upon religious freedom. This should be voted on by the people. Let's not rush a badly written law for the purpose of granting a right to a few while eliminating the right of the many. Doesn't our present civil union law already give same sex couples all the legal rights that a married couple would have?
on October 31,2013 | 12:17PM
boshio wrote:
Now this same sex marriage group is going after the priviledge to squeeze both Federal and State money benefits afforded husband and wife marriage. Anyone can see that this will be another way for "benefit Fraud" that will eventually cost all of us paying more taxes and premiums in the near future. Eventually, Hawaii will become the #1 "Entitlement" state in the nation.
on October 31,2013 | 12:27PM
localguy wrote:
boshio - No, you keep getting it all wrong. As there is no limit on the number of married couples, gay or straight, no difference in state or fed tax bennies. Just another urban legend the clueless like to spread around.
on October 31,2013 | 12:55PM
otoko wrote:
y-a-w-n . . .
on October 31,2013 | 12:20PM
reefkeeper wrote:
the whole state will SUFFER if this pases through, there will be many hate crimes and Hawaii wll no longer be the chosen destination of most of the world. don't let this happen let the people vote ONE MAN ONE WOMAN or none at all.
on October 31,2013 | 12:42PM
localguy wrote:
You and blackmurano must all be thumping the same bible. Nothing will change, life goes on, just another day in the Nei.
on October 31,2013 | 12:56PM
jess wrote:
Finally someone on this thread who seems intelligent.
on October 31,2013 | 03:25PM
louana wrote:
in the Bible it say's marriage is only between 1 MAN & 1 WOMEN NOT 2 men and 2 women!!!! what kind of message does it send to our childern???? this is all part of the devils plan- to desensitize people from what GOD's words is.... 1 man & 1 women ONLY !!! WAKE UP PEOPLE !!
on October 31,2013 | 01:05PM
peum wrote:
There's a lot of us who don't give a crap what the bible says.
on October 31,2013 | 01:17PM
kuewa wrote:
The Bible does not define or limit marriage to only one type of relationship. This has been pointed out numerous times by Bible scholars (yes, those that actually believe in the Bible). However, people continue to repeat this nonsense over and over again. The KJ Bible and derivatives does appear to teach against same sex relationships, but the older Hebrew and Greek texts upon which these and other sections are based do not appear to say the same thing--- again, as pointed out repeatedly by Bible scholars. And besides all that, who says that everyone has to live their lives according to the KJ Bible?
on October 31,2013 | 01:31PM
hon2255 wrote:
kuewa , live your life what eva you want , just leave the rest of us alone , we dont bother you, you dont bother us, respect for each other, just accept it , if you dont want to live a traditional life as a woman hey and find a butchie boyfriend who looks like a guy,acts like a guy, so be it , bit dont call yourself man and wife and ask for a marriage license. Forget it . Just get a civil union's license.
on October 31,2013 | 04:58PM
kuewa wrote:
Wow. Your comment shows that you have no idea what this issue is about. For one thing, the Federal government recognizes State-defined marriage, but not civil unions. Therefore, this creates a situation of unequal protection which raises Constitutional issues at the national level. And in case you are wonder (which it seems that you are), I am not considering same sex marriage for myself. You are the one you needs to learn to live and let live.
on November 1,2013 | 12:28AM
jess wrote:
What page? I studied the Bible my entire school life in a Catholic school and I don't recollect the Bible saying anything about marriage being between a man and a woman. WAKE UP BIGOTS!
on October 31,2013 | 03:26PM
hawaiikone wrote:
If the school offers refunds, get one.
on October 31,2013 | 04:46PM
8082062424 wrote:
Genesis 2:24 states: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus reaffirms this: "He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?". just two there are more
on October 31,2013 | 05:48PM
kuewa wrote:
Perhaps you missed the other sections where a man has more than one wife?
on November 1,2013 | 12:29AM
kuewa wrote:
And there are Adam and Eve, who appear to be siblings in a single parent household. Then there is the problem of how their children could have had children without committing incest. So, my point still stands that the Bible does not restrict relationships to one man and one woman; nor does it appear to define legal (non-religious) marriage in the sense that is the basis for the current arguments.
on November 1,2013 | 12:54AM
ArchStanton wrote:
IRT jess: Perhaps you were sleeping or absent during the discussion of Genesis 2:24: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
on October 31,2013 | 05:55PM
jomama wrote:
know what, I was in favor of gay marriage but now that you cite these passages I change my mind. keep on with the fairy tales, just don't impose your nonsense on the rest of us.
on October 31,2013 | 08:53PM
kuewa wrote:
This passage refers to fidelity within a man/woman relationship. It does not exclude the possibility of other types of relationships, some of which are described in other sections of the Bible. And btw, if you are going to take the Bible literally, then Genesis appears to forbid divorce within a heterosexual marriage, something which is far more common than same-sex marriage. Perhaps you can redirect your efforts toward the bigger "problem."
on November 1,2013 | 02:27AM
8083914084 wrote:
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” -Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
on October 31,2013 | 06:12PM
kuewa wrote:
The sky is falling! The sky is falling ! Funny thing though--- it hasn't fallen in California, New York, NJ, Europe and all the other places where same sex marriage is legal. And you know what, the churches in all those places are not forced to perform same sex marriage ceremonies; each church can decide for itself.
on October 31,2013 | 01:22PM
jess wrote:
The churches here are mad because if they charge for the wedding (most do) they cannot be exempt. It's pure greed.
on October 31,2013 | 03:34PM
Jca43 wrote:
Error house
on October 31,2013 | 04:20PM
Kuniarr wrote:
Does this SSM force churches to conduct marriages FREE? Or have the use of their facilities and grounds FREE? Then SSM is unconstitutional.
on October 31,2013 | 07:21PM
kuewa wrote:
No, but it would require that public accommodations, such as those that are rented to the general public for marriage ceremonies, would need to be made available for same sex ceremonies (the facilities, not the clergy). The churches could get around this by changing those facilities to members-only, but this would then restrict the usage and decrease their income.
on November 1,2013 | 12:32AM
Jca43 wrote:
Exactly, but the current senate proposal is not at all solid enough to prevent religious backlash. SB-1 is much better than Abercrombie first draft. But this is by far one of the the biggest issues. The hope is that the senate votes to not rush the draft through but take the time to ensure fairness among both sides.
on October 31,2013 | 04:20PM
8083914084 wrote:
Yeah none of that is going to happen
on October 31,2013 | 06:10PM
jomama wrote:
twisty logic
on October 31,2013 | 08:51PM
CloudForest wrote:
Unfortunately the delegation from Sodom and Gomorrah was unavailable for comment ............
on October 31,2013 | 02:53PM
Jca43 wrote:
: )
on October 31,2013 | 04:21PM
kuewa wrote:
Yes, and the fairies are not flying in from Never Never Land, the Hobbits are not marching on Washington, and the Minotaur is not rising from the sea. Are you sad?
on November 1,2013 | 02:29AM
MariaBetty wrote:
Love endures so whats the rush in crafting this legislation fairly.
on October 31,2013 | 03:16PM
Jca43 wrote:
on October 31,2013 | 04:21PM
hon2255 wrote:
No special interest group should be able to force the rest of society to change the rights of marriage, between man and woman not man and man, woman and woman, thats why we have civil unions which makes perfect sense, stop slamming your lifestyle in our faces gay community, let it be.
on October 31,2013 | 04:54PM
hanaboy wrote:
Besides your religious beliefs and personal feelings, how will SSM affect you personally? Am I missing something? Is taxes going to rise, housing become less affordable, more murders, rapes and robberies will occur? Guess what, that's already happening! Is the rail going to be built, ,traffic get worse and politicians lie because of SSM. Are they (gays/lesbians) going to knock on your door and shove their lifestylye in your face like some religious groups do now? If SSM passes, what awful thing will happen to us as individuals? Can someone give me an answer that does not include religious or personal feelings? Do not bash me for I am just asking a question.....Thanks!
on October 31,2013 | 05:39PM
kuewa wrote:
Civil unions are not recognized by Federal Law. Same sex marriages are now recognized under Federal law and allow for granting of tax, inheritance, and other benefits. Therefore, relying on civil unions creates a Constitutional issue of equal protection.
on November 1,2013 | 02:31AM
Adam1105 wrote:
On a scale of 1 to 10 of importance relating to what's happening today -- about a 1.7.
on October 31,2013 | 09:54PM
Adam1105 wrote:
One more thing, though. This country was built on TWO PILLARS. One is majority rule and the other is MINORITY RIGHTS. The majority DOES NOT have the right to impose its values on the minority — even if they outnumber the minority a thousand to one.
on October 31,2013 | 09:56PM
kuewa wrote:
Fortunately, the courts have agreed with this in multiple recent cases, which speaks to the strengths of our national Constitution and Bill of Rights.
on November 1,2013 | 12:37AM
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