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Hawaii state House lawmakers hear from public on same-sex marriage

GOP state Senator trying to get a judge 'to shut this whole thing down'
Thursday, October 31, 2013

HONOLULU — More than half of Hawaii’s House lawmakers are spending Halloween listening to the public’s sentiments as they consider legalizing gay marriage.

And a Republican lawmaker against the bill who has expressed frustration with the process is hoping to disrupt the special session with a lawsuit.

Oskar Garcia, APMembers of the public attend a Hawaii Senate committee hearing on gay marriage at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Monday.

Oskar Garcia, AP
Members of the public attend a Hawaii Senate committee hearing on gay marriage at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Monday.

State Sen. Bob McDermott told The Associated Press on Thursday that he’s trying to get a judge “to shut this whole thing down.”

“That’s my objective,” he said.

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

McDermott is one of 30 House lawmakers on two committees holding a joint hearing, where nearly 4,000 people have signed up to testify in two-minute stretches. The hearing is expected to last until midnight, then resume Friday if needed.

House spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said 15,000 pieces of written testimony have been received by the judiciary and finance committees.

Proponents and opponents of gay marriage packed a basement hallway in the Capitol ahead of the hearing, while others waved signs, prayed and solicited car honks from the Capitol rotunda and street.

McDermott’s lawsuit focused on a 1998 same-sex marriage ballot measure, which legislators are now relying on to make decisions on the issue. McDermott’s lawsuit claims the Office of Elections instructions at the time gave voters the impression that a “yes” vote would mean reserving marriage to opposite-sex couples only.

According to the lawsuit, the wording in the instructions said: “A ‘yes’ vote would add a new provision to the Constitution that would give the Legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples only.”

“The word ‘only’ is the key,” McDermott said Thursday. “The fact that the Senate acted, the issue is ripe.”

The bill passed the Senate easily on Wednesday, advancing 20-4 with one senator abstaining because his mother had died in the morning. The Hawaii Senate is dominated by Democrats, with only one Republican.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki has said it’s likely the chamber will amend the bill to change religious exemptions. The Senate bill exempts ministers and other clergy – but not for-profit businesses – from having to perform gay wedding ceremonies.

“The House committees recognize that there is still a lot of public concern about the scope of the exemptions,” Saiki said this week.

The House is made up of 44 Democrats and seven Republicans. While House Speaker Joseph Souki has said he believes there’s enough support to pass gay marriage, some Democrats plan to vote no on the bill.

Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of its judiciary committee, said after the Senate vote that he has spoken with leadership in the House and told them that senators may not support expanded religious exemptions if they allow gay couples to be discriminated against as a separate class of people from others.

“Those are efforts that I would caution against,” Hee told reporters after the Senate vote.

Because of the high public interest, the House committees waived a 24-hour deadline on submitting testimony, promising to accept testimony before and during the hearing. Lawmakers also planned to give candy to trick-or-treating children who were expected to spend prime candy-hunting hours of Halloween at the Capitol.

If the bill passes as currently written, ceremonies for same-sex couples would begin Nov. 18.

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24 more reader comments:

  1. GOP don’t like democracy when it’s something they aren’t winning

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:07am
  2. The GOP keeps up, they’ll all be living in a van down by the river.

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:09am
  3. by the ocean in HI

    Replied on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:30am
  4. I'm pretty sure there could be a river in HI....right? Hmm...Never been. What if that place sinks? I'm not gonna be on Atlantis number 2. lolz Still...a van...A that Bachman can be unliving under the tires of said van...

    Replied on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:35am
  5. the jersey shore where there are no house anymore!!!

    Replied on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 4:46am
  6. GOP apparently hates freedom. If people can’t marry a same sex partner the terrorists win. Don’t let the terrorists win.

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:13am
  7. The public cannot and should not decide this – as in civil rights if the public had their way there would still be segregation – it’s a question on human rights – many christians think that marriage is a religious right when it’s actually a civil contract therefore available to all regardless of your bigotry

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:15am
  8. sounds like that GOP senator is looking for an “activist judge”

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:15am
  9. GOP is a joke!!! Hawaii will be hosting many fabulous weddings soon!!! can’t wait!! =)

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:40am
  10. You cannot shut down government no matter what the tea party tried to do.

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:46am
  11. Come on Hawaii do the right thing, the human thing!

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:52am
  12. please dont discriminate separation of church and state

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:05am
  13. “Shut the whole thing down?” You mean, like a raped woman, whose body, magically, doesn’t get pregnant because some fundamentalist WANTS that to be true?

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:10am
  14. …and the missing members are out in their best clown suits stealing candy from little kids!

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:13am
  15. Doesn’t matter what the public thinks. That law was overturned in CA. People do NOT have the right to vote on other people’s RIGHTS! If they could,interracial marriage would still be illegal. The SCOTUS has said that banning gay marriage is ILLEGAL! Get with the law, GOP!

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 3:53am
  16. Doesn’t matter what the people have to say. We are hunam enough for human rights. But you can’t explaine that to inhumane assholes.

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 4:08am
  17. why would the mormans care? how will it effect them?

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 4:20am
  18. get a fucking life and stop spending our money on frivolous court actions!!!

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 4:45am
  19. let’s HOPE, the HOUSE passes it…..it’s time to come OUT OF THE DARK AGES…..and give gays MARRIAGE EQUALITY…..civil unions DON’T give them all the benifits and protections that LEGAL MARIAGE does.

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 4:59am
  20. Aloha be proud Hawaii your time has now come

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 6:43am
  21. I hope the judge does tell that GOP lawmaker to drop dead!

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 8:57am
  22. It’s going to be legal everywhere so give it up and be on the right side of history! Equality will win the day! We’re not going anywhere! :D

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 9:43am
  23. NOTICE: the GOP does not exist any longer for they have been usurped by the Right Wing Christian Republican Party and the Tea Party and they hate OBAMA and they hate Gay Men…….there, that is it in a nutshell…….this is a harbinger of things to come in our life, in American life, as we get closer and closer to the Election of the Century of 2016: the Right Wing Christian Republican Party will attack anything not affiliated with their cause, which is to move into the White House and take over America…and…and…and…receive support from the their two favorite men, Scalia and Thomas…GET READY FOR THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURE: VOTE HILLARY, that is, if she is up to it…

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:02pm
  24. They hate freedome

    Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:16pm