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Hawaii state senate passes marriage equality bill

Jackson LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials Sevcik v Sandoval

Hawaii state sealYesterday, Hawaii’s state senate passed the marriage equality bill in a 20-4 vote. On Tuesday, the Hawaii Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee voted on the bill, passing it out of that committee by a 5-2 vote.

The legislation will now proceed to the state house.

According to a report, the House Majority Leader expects amendments to be made to the bill in the state house, meaning it would need to go back to the senate before final passage:

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki says it’s likely the chamber will amend the bill to change religious exemptions. The Senate bill currently exempts ministers and other clergy from having to perform gay wedding ceremonies, but not for-profit businesses.

“The House committees recognize that there is still a lot of public concern about the scope of the exemptions,” Saiki said.

The Halloween joint hearing between the House judiciary and finance committees is expected to last until midnight, then carry over to Friday if there are still people wanting to testify.

EqualityOnTrial has noted previously that the legislation is likely to pass both chambers, and Governor Abercrombie, who supports marriage equality, will sign the bill:

[A]s the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports, that proposed legislation looks very likely to succeed:

No Democratic lawmaker has been willing to publicly lead the opposition to gay marriage, although a few, such as Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Poamoho), have warned against the rush to pass a bill in special session and have called for a stronger religious exemption.

Rep. James Tokioka (D, Wailua-Hanamaulu-Lihue), who intends to vote against the bill, said he surveyed constituents in his district earlier this year and found that 70 percent of respondents opposed same-sex marriage.

“I need to reflect the opinion of my district,” he said.

The projected vote count for marriage equality in the state Senate is 21-4. In the state House — where individual districts are smaller and the intensity of public opinion can feel closer — several lawmakers appear nervous. The Star-Advertiser’s vote count in the House remains at 28-17, with six lawmakers undecided. House leaders say their count is closer to 30 in support, a cushion over the 26 votes required for passage.

The House Democrats who say they are undecided — and who will likely experience the full force of the public over the next several days — are still calculating.

Even Democrats who have opposed marriage equality in past, such as John Mizuno, who voted against civil unions in 2011, are reconsidering their position, as the Star-Advertiser notes[.]

A lot of testimony will be heard in the state house hearing, and the session may even last until Friday.

Meanwhile, Governor Abercrombie has filed his opening brief in the federal challenge to Hawaii’s marriage ban, Jackson v. Abercrombie, and amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs have been filed in that case, and in Nevada’s similar challenge, Sevcik v. Sandoval. Both cases are on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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