Testimony in Hawaii same-sex marriage hearing ends after nearly five days

Republican Rep. Bob McDermott has asked for a 5-day recess in an attempt to delay a vote on the marriage bill. OSKAR GARCIA [ap]

Updated: 2:40 p.m. HST

HONOLULU — Lawmakers on two state House committees Tuesday finished taking nearly five days of public testimony on a bill to legalize gay marriage in Hawaii, then broke to discuss changes to a measure that’s already passed the state Senate.

A joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Finance committees wrapped up taking comments Tuesday afternoon from speakers given two minutes each.

Republican Rep. Bob McDermott has asked for a 5-day recess in an attempt to delay a vote on the marriage bill.

Republican Rep. Bob McDermott has asked for a 5-day recess in an attempt to delay a vote on the marriage bill.

Rep. Karl Rhoads, head of the Judiciary Committee, declared a one-hour recess for lawmakers to talk about changes to the bill.

“I think it’s probably the longest hearing ever in the history of Hawaii,” Rhoads said, thanking staffers and members of the public for sticking around for a hearing that began on Halloween.

Afterward, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said the committee is likely to broaden a religious exemption that keeps clergy from having to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples.

“That is taking into consideration what we heard at t he public hearing,” Saiki said.

He said he is not sure whether lawmakers would change the bill to modify teaching practices or rules for Native Hawaiian recognition, common complaints from people who testified in opposition to the bill.

If the bill passes the committees, it could go to the House floor for a second reading Tuesday night and pass the chamber this week.

The Senate would have to approve any changes before the bill goes to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature.

A brief morning session on the House floor Tuesday went into recess with Vice Speaker John Mizuno telling lawmakers to return at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The 30 lawmakers on the committees then resumed the hearing.

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Sensing the shift, Republican Rep. Bob McDermott asked Tuesday if he could seek a five-day recess once testimony concludes before the committees decide whether to clear the bill of its current hurdle. McDermott, who is against the bill, said he wants time to digest the tes timony and talk with his constituents.

“I don’t expect to be successful but I’d just like the opportunity to do so – and I’ll be nice when I do it and I’ll do it with a smile,” McDermott asked Rep. Sylvia Luke, the Democratic head of the House Finance Committee.

Luke told him to take the request up with House leadership, and later rebuffed a second request.

Last week, McDermott told The Associated Press that he’s trying to get a judge “to shut this whole thing down.”

“That’s my objective,” he said.

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