Hawaii begins special session to consider marriage equality bill

Honolulu, Hawaii OSKAR GARCIA [ap]

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are coming back to the Capitol for a special session to consider legalizing same-sex marriage.

Legislators say the bill to be introduced Monday morning has overwhelming support in the Senate and enough support in the House to pass.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Proponents of same-sex marriage planned a rally at the start of the session, while opponents are expected to hold a rival demonstration Monday evening.

It’s all in an effort to try to influence swayable legislators by digging into everything from the broad issue itself to the details of the bill’s wording and the process lawmakers are using to consider it.

Proponents say they shouldn’t have to wait for gay marriage, calling it a civil right that acknowledges the value of same-sex relationships.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the special session after House and Senate lawmakers couldn’t muster the two-thirds support needed to do it themselves. He says passing a bill would put H awaii in line with two Supreme Court rulings that affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Opponents say society needs to encourage marriage between men and women, in part to protect children. They also say a religious exemption proposed in the bill doesn’t do enough to protect people who don’t believe in gay marriage from having to facilitate ceremonies. Other opponents want a public vote, rather than a special session in a Legislature dominated by Democrats.

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The days leading up to the session have been filled with TV ads, sign waving demonstrations, and news conferences and rallies by advocates on both sides of the issue. Local television stations planned to stream legislative hearings online.

Abercrombie was expected to open the session, followed immediately by a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Clayton Hee.

On the House side, Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican representing Ewa and Ewa Beach, plans to introduce a proposal to amend the Hawaii Constitution to explicitly restrict marriage to between men and women.

The constitution currently gives the Legislature the power to decide whether marriage between two people of the same sex should be allowed.

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