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Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii

2013-NOV-08:
Bill passes its 3rd reading in the full House with
a strong margin. Bill proceeds to the Senate.
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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2013-NOV-08: The House rejected dozens of amendments and finally voted on SB1:

Public demonstrating in capitol rotunda 1

Supporters and opponents of marriage equality, kept on opposite sides of capitol rotunda

Supporters and opponents of SB1 were given separate but equal spaces in which to demonstrate. On previous days, tempers had flared. There was concern that when the final vote was taken, things might have gotten out of hand. Each group was assigned a separate side of Beretania Street on which to wave flags, separate halves of the Capitol Rotunda, separate seating areas in the House chamber, and even separate bathrooms!

The session began at 10 AM Hawaiian time (3 PM ET). After three hours passed, no real progress had been made towards holding a vote on SB1. Instead, more amendments to SB1 -- all by opponents of marriage equality -- had to be dealt with. They included:

  • An amendment to delay action by the House until a special task force could be organized and complete a study into the impacts that marriage equality would have on the state.

  • An amendment that would allow individuals and owners of small profit-making businesses who had personal religious objections to the LGBT community to refuse to serve customers on the basis of the latter's sexual orientation.

  • Create an opt-out policy for parents to prevent their children from being present during parts of their school's curriculum containing information on same-sex marriage or sex education related to lesbians and gays.

  • Create still another religious exemption from Hawaii's public accommodations law for believers who want to actively discriminate.

All four of these amendments failed in voice votes. It is impossible to know whether the amendments are serious attempts to change the bill, or merely attempts to delay the vote in the hopes that a sufficient number of representatives would change their mind and vote against the bill.

The procedure to handle amendments was accelerated later in the day by limiting debate on each of the final 12 amendments to ten minutes each. Again all were rejected after voice votes.

At 5:50 PM Hawaiian time, the Representatives had rejected the 29th amendment to the bill: 13 amendments had been considered and rejected on Wednesday during the second reading of SB1, four on the morning of NOV-08, and 12 in the afternoon/evening. The House took a short break to prepare for the actual vote on SB1. Another delay was caused by Rep. McDermott (R) who launched into a speech why the bill was unconstitutional. The background noise level in the chamber steadily increased as observers from the public anticipated that the vote was imminent.

Nobody was pleased with the debate. Supporters of SB1 were frustrated at what they interpreted as endless delaying tactics by the other side. Those opposed to SB1 were frustrated at what what they felt was inadequate time to present their case in support of the amendments.

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Friday, 2013-NOV-08: Bill SB1 is passed by the House on its third reading:

Finally the House voted. The result was 30 in favor, 19 opposed, and two representatives were absent. Overall, the only changes from the second reading vote were that one fewer representative was absent, and one more was opposed. 2 29 Democrats and 1 Republican voted in favor of the marriage equality bill SB1; 13 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted against it. 3

As noted above, with such an ideologically driven topic, a major change in the vote outcome during second and third reading was not likely, and did not happen.

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2013-NOV-08: Immediate reactions to the bill's passage:

frame grab from video 4

Supporters of marriage equality bill celebrate when the vote is announced.

Sunnive Brydum of The Advocate wrote that:

"... jubilant supporters heard the news that marriage equality had passed. The crowd, waving rainbow flags, began screaming, crying, hugging, and chanting 'Love is Love!' at the marriage equality opponents on the other side of the rotunda, who were notably quiet, some bowing their heads in prayer." 4

Mileka Lincoln of Hawaii News Now wrote:

"Advocates of the bill, who flooded the mauka side of the Capitol Rotunda, erupted in cheers and tears of joy as they reached for each other hugging and kissing their fellow same-sex marriage supporters. Across the way on the makai side, opponents fell quiet after hours of chanting "Let the people vote!" -- many held hands and bowed their heads in prayer." 3

"Mauka" is a Hawaiian term referring to the direction towards the mountains; makai refers to the opposite side, towards the ocean. In Waikiki and the rest of Honolulu, "Diamond Head" refers to the direction towards the Diamond Head extinct volcano. which is a very prominent landmark. "Ewa" refers to the opposite direction towards Ewa, HI.

With both the House and Senate having passed similar versions of SB1, and Governor Abercrombie being a strong supporter for marriage equality, the vast majority of demonstrators on both sides probably realized that same-sex marriage is virtually certain to come to Hawaii soon.


Immediately after the vote, Gov. Abercrombie issued a statement:

"I commend the House of Representatives for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward. After more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments, and deliberating procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equity for same-sex couples and protects our First Amendment freedoms for religious organizations. I applaud Speaker Souki, Judiciary Chair Rhoads, Finance Chair Luke, Majority Leader Saiki and the rest of the leadership team for their patience, fairness and hard work in shepherding this bill through the House. I am confident that the Senate will address the bill in the same spirit. I look forward to a successful conclusion to this major step in affirming everyone's civil rights." 4

The bill, as just passed by the House, contains three amendments. This makes it different from the version previously passed by the Senate. The House version now goes to the Senate where one of two actions were likely:
  • The House version will be passed by the Senate intact. This path was taken the next day.

  • Senators and Representatives will join in a conference committee to produce a compromise version that the Senate and House will again vote upon.

The rules of the Legislature require a delay before the Senate can take up the bill. It could not take action until Tuesday, NOV-12, when it is scheduled to meet.

If an identical version of SB1 is passed by both House and Senate, it would be sent to Governor Abercrombie (D) to sign it into law. The governor has long been a strong supporter of marriage equality and is expected to enthusiastically sign it. That would make Hawaii the 15th or 16th state to legalize SSM, depending on marriage equality activity in Illinois. That state's Legislature has passed a bill to legalize SSM and Governor Quinn (D) is scheduled to sign the bill into law at a special public ceremony in Chicago on NOV-20.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Michelle Broder Van Dyke, "Hawaii House Passes Marriage Equality Bill," BuzzFeed, 2013-NOV-09, at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/
  2. Treena Shapiro, "Gay marriage clears another statehouse hurdle in Hawaii," Reuters 2013-NOV-09, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  3. Mileka Lincoln, "Hawaii House lawmakers pass same-sex marriage bill," Hawaii News Now, 2013-NOV-08, at: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/
  4. Sunnive Brydum, "Hawaii Passes Marriage Equality." The Advocate, 2013-NOV-09, at: http://www.advocate.com/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-NOV-01
Latest update: 2013-NOV-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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