House committees pass Same-Sex Marriage bill, advances to floor for vote

House committees pass Same-Sex Marriage bill, advances to floor for vote
Published: Nov. 5, 2013 at 9:54 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 6, 2013 at 4:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial same-sex marriage bill has passed a joint House committee and will advance to the House floor for a second reading and vote Wednesday morning. SB 1, the "Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act of 2013" passed 18 - 12 Tuesday afternoon.

The biggest change in this amended version is the expanded exemption that will apply to both non-profit and for-profit religious organizations -- protecting them from fine or penalty if they refuse to perform a wedding ceremony for same-sex couples. 

"The biggest amendment, the most important amendment, was expanding the religious exemption.  It's based on the Connecticut language -- of the states that have same-sex marriage.  Connecticut is one of the broadest exemptions," explained House Judiciary committee Chair, Representative Karl Rhoads. 

The committee decision came after nearly 57 hours of public testimony. 

The following Judiciary committee members voted yes: 

- Chair Karl Rhoads (D - Chinatown, Iwilei, Kalihi)
- Rep. Della Au Belatti (D - Moiliili, Makiki, Tantalus)
- Rep. Tom Brower (D - Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako)
- Rep. Denny Coffman (D - Naalehu, Captain Cook, Keahou)
- Rep. Derek Kawakami (D - Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa)
- Rep. Chris Lee (D - Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo)
- Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R - Kailua, Kaneohe)
- Rep. Jessica Wooley (D - Kahaluu, Ahuimanu, Kaneohe)

The following Judiciary committee members voted no: 

- Vice Chair Sharon Har (D - Kapolei, Makakilo)
- Rep. Mele Carroll (D - Holualoa, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau)
- Rep. Ken Ito (D - Kaneohe, Maunawili, Kailua)
- Rep. Bob McDermott (R - Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point)
- Rep. Clift Tsuji (D - Hilo, Waiakea, Keaukaha)

The following Finance committee members voted yes: 

- Chair Sylvia Luke (D - Punchbowl, Pauoa, Nuuanu)
- Rep. Mark Hashem (D - Hahaione Valley, Aina Haina, Kahala)
- Rep. Kaniela Ing (D - South Maui)
- Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi (D - Diamond Head, Kaimuki, Kapahulu)
- Rep. Nicole Lowen (D - Holualoa, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau)
- Rep. Dee Morikawa (D - Niihau, Koloa, Kokee)
- Rep. Scott Nishimoto (D - McCully, Moiliili, Kapahulu)
- Rep. Richard Onishi (D - South Hilo, Keaau, Honuapo)
- Rep. Gregg Takayama (D - Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades)
- Rep. Kyle Yamashita (D - Sprecklesville, Upcountry Maui)

The following Finance committee members voted no: 

- Vice Chair Aaron Johanson (R - Fort Shafter, Moanalua Gardens, Aliamanu)
- Rep. Ty Cullen (D - Waipahu, Royal Kunia, Makakilo)
- Rep. Beth Fukumoto (R - Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres)
- Rep. Jo Jordan (D - Waianae, Makaha, Makua)
- Rep. James Tokioka (D - Wailua, Hanamaulu, Lihue)
- Rep. Gene Ward (R - Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawaii Kai)
- Rep. Justin Woodson (D - Kahului, Wailuku, Puunene)

Just prior to the vote, several House Representatives addressed the audience -- many of whom have been at the Capitol for all five days of the hearing-- to explain their choice. 

"Marriage means help.  Marriage holds families together and forms a loving environment for children to be raised, so why deny more loving couples from getting married?  Isn't allowing our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters that opportunity the conservative and Christian thing to do?" asked Kaniela Ing, a member of the Finance committee who voted for amended version of SB 1. 

"Applying exemptions only to religious organizations prevents businesses, especially our small businesses and individuals, from expressing their religious and consciensious belief.  The chilling effect from this would fundamentally change our society and turn Hawai'i nei into arguably a totalitarian state," said Judiciary committee Vice Chair, Representative Sharon Har.  

The amended version of the bill eliminates a provision regarding parental rights that has been questioned over concerns it would grant undue Native Hawaiian status to some children of same-sex couples.

"We looked at the parental issue, we broadened the religious exemption -- those were all because of some of the testimony that came out and some of the concerns shared by the Representatives," said Finance committee Chair, Representative Sylvia Luke. 

While supporters celebrated after the vote, opponents rallied in the Rotunda, shouting "Let the people decide". 

The committees have also proposed pushing the law's effective date from November 18 back to December 2, 2013.  House officials say that will provide the Department of Health the time they explained they would need to prepare for same-sex marriage. 

If the bill passes its second reading in the House Wednesday there will be a 48 hour hold before House Representatives take a third reading and final vote, which would be Friday at the earliest.  Since the bill has been amended, it still needs to cross back over the Senate for approval. 

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