The Hawaii House on Wednesday gave an
initial nod to a proposed bill which seeks to make Hawaii the 16th
state to legalize gay marriage.
House members voted 30-18 to advance
the bill after nearly 11 hours of debate.
The marriage bill is being considered
during a special session called for by Democratic Governor Neil
The debate has attracted hundreds to
Hawaii's capitol. More than 1,000 of the 5,184 people who had signed
up to testify showed up to speak during a 5-day marathon House
hearing. A large number of those testifying said that they opposed
gay nuptials based on religious grounds.
As Wednesday's session got underway, a
large crowd of opponents gathered outside the House chamber chanting
“Let the people vote!” and later “Kill the bill,” disrupting
the debate going on inside.
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a Democrat,
introduced 8 floor amendments to the bill, all of which were voted
down. One amendment attempted to extend the bill's religious
exemptions to include individuals and businesses.
Representatives also rejected a
referendum on the issue proposed by Oshiro with a 28 to 19 vote. The
amendment's failure provoked opponents in the House gallery to erupt
with chants of “Let the people vote!”
A separate amendment by Rep. Bob
McDermott, a Republican, also sought a popular vote on the issue. It
was also rejected.
Rep. Gene Ward, also a Republican,
introduced three amendments. One sought to allow parents and
teachers to opt out of instruction on homosexuality. Ward said that
it was needed to “inoculate” children from such teachings.
Another amendment would add a “conscience exemption” for
individuals. Ward's final amendment sought to exempt churches from
the state's public accommodations law. All three amendments were
defeated by voice vote.
Before the vote was called, McDermott
made a motion to delay it indefinitely, arguing that lawmakers needed
more time to consider the issue. The motion failed 30-18.
A final House vote is expected to take