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Senate to Vote Wednesday on Same-Sex Marriage Draft Bill

October 29, 2013, 5:18 PM HST · Updated October 30, 12:10 PM
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State Capitol, file photo by Wendy Osher.

State Capitol, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaiʻi heads to the Senate for third and final reading at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.

The vote comes after an earlier vote by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, which advanced Senate Bill (SB) 1, Relating to Equal Rights in a five to two vote on Monday evening following hours of testimony from both supporters and opponents.

Under the bill, marriages between individuals of the same gender would be recognized in the state, and same-sex couples would be extended the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities that married couples of the opposite-sex are presently entitled to.

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The bill in its current form states: “The legislature has already extended to same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions that provide the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under state law as afforded to opposite-sex couples who marry. However, these civil unions are not recognized by federal law and will not be treated equally to a marriage under federal law.”

At the same time the bill also states that, “Any law of this State that refers to, adopts, or relies upon federal law shall apply to all marriages recognized under the laws of this State as if federal law recognized such marriages in the same manner as the laws of this State so that all marriages receive equal treatment.”

Also under the bill, “all gender-specific terminology, such as ‘husband’, ‘wife’, ‘widow’, ‘widower’, or similar terms, shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner.”

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The bill outlines liability exemptions under certain circumstances for religious organizations and facilities according the following excerpt of the measure:

“Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no religious organization shall be subject to any fine, penalty, injunction, administrative proceeding, or civil liability for refusing to make its facilities or grounds available for solemnization of any marriage celebration under this chapter; provided that the religious organization does not make its facilities or grounds available to the general public for solemnization of any marriage celebration for a profit. For purposes of this section, a religious organization accepting donations from the public, providing religious services to the public, or otherwise permitting the public to enter the religious organization’s premises shall not constitute ‘for a profit.'”

If passed by the full Senate on third reading, the measure will be transmitted to the House for review.

The House Judiciary and Finance committees have already scheduled a hearing on the measure set to begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31. and end at midnight. At that time if there are people who signed up to testify still waiting to speak, the hearing will be continued on Friday, November 1 at a time to be determined, officials said.

Due to the anticipated high volume of testifiers, the Judiciary and Finance Committees will assign registration numbers to people who submit testimony and wish to testify in-person.

According to information released by the House, those who submit testimony online and wish to testify at the hearing will receive an email with their registration number; and those who submit their testimony in person will be assigned a number at that time.

“The numbering system is being implemented to more efficiently assist the flow of people and their testimony during the hearing. It will also allow testifiers to know where they are on the testimony list and plan their presence accordingly,” the announcement said.

For more information on how to submit testimony for the upcoming hearing, details are provided at the following link.

Updates from the special session and the progress of other bills introduced are available at the following link.

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