A House hearing on a proposed gay
marriage bill will begin its third day of testimony on Saturday in Hawaii.
Lawmakers announced Friday that the
hearing could stretch into Monday.
The measure, Senate Bill 1, has
attracted intense interest, with more than 5,000 people signing up to
testify before thirty House members from two committees. An
additional 15,000 pages of written testimony were submitted ahead of
The hearing got underway a day after
the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation.
But in the House, where votes are
tight, the bill is having a rockier ride. House lawmakers opposed to
the measure were expected to file amendments seeking to expand the
bill's religious exemptions to include businesses.
One witness described the plan to
consider the marriage bill during a special session called by
Governor Neil Abercrombie “government run amok.”
“Thousands of people came out to the
rally against this bill on Monday and sixty percent of the
testimonies that were heard that same day were also in opposition.
And yet somehow the bill still made it out of committee and passed
the Senate yesterday by a vote of 20 to 4,” the witness said. “I
get the feeling that it doesn't matter what we say.”
Abercrombie, who signed the state's
civil unions bill in 2011, has stated that he called the special
session in response to the Supreme Court's June decision striking
down the Defense of Marriage (DOMA), which left gay couples in civil
unions unable to access federal benefits.
Pressure to act also increased last
month after a lawsuit in New Jersey succeeded in forcing the state to
allow gay couples to marry. Hawaii is similarly situated to New
Jersey. Both states created a separate union specifically for
gay couples that is not recognized by the federal government.
A lawsuit challenging Hawaii's marriage
laws is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
AG Martha Coakley urges appeal court to strike down gay marriage