"BREAKING: Hawaii Legislature Passes Marriage Equality"
The Hawaii House has granted marriage equality its third and final passage with a vote of 30-19, as it had on Wednesday. The bill was amended in committee, which means it must return to Senate for passage before advancing to Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), who is committed to signing it.
Though Wednesday’s passage foreshadowed easy passage again on Friday, opponents of the bill attempted to delay and obstruct the bill with numerous amendments, all of which failed. Many of these amendments were identical to each other or focused on small technicalities in the language of the bill. Additionally, there were also once again countless recesses as lawmakers bristled over floor procedure for addressing the bill. Here are some of the amendments that were proposed this time around:
- An amendment to create a task force to further discuss the impact of marriage equality. Proponents of this argued that there would be a dip in tourism from Asia, which would hurt the economy.
- An amendment to allow parents to opt their children out of sex ed curricula that is inclusive of same-sex couples. Proponents highlighted a worksheet from a proposed curriculum that showed that a same-sex relationship was healthy and a heterosexual relationship was unhealthy. Another lawmaker pointed out that the worksheet indicated that the in the heterosexual relationship, the man bought the woman an earrings in an attempt to convince her to have sex with him.
- An amendment that would allow individuals and businesses to deny public accommodations to the gay community. Rep. Jo Jordan (D), the first-ever openly gay lawmaker to vote against marriage equality, expressed sympathy for a professional pianist who had testified that he regularly refuses to play for same-sex weddings because of his Catholic beliefs. Other lawmakers point out that Hawaii’s public accommodation protections already make that illegal, even without marriage equality.
- An amendment to allow churches to discriminate against the gay community. The bill already protects religious organizations from having to participate in the solemnization of a same-sex couple’s marriage, but this amendment would have allowed discrimination of any kind, even if was not related to marriage.
- An amendment for an inseverability clause, which would invalidate the entire law if any part of it is found to be unconstitutional, similar to what was added to New York’s marriage equality bill. The amendment would have also established residency requirements for same-sex couples who wish to divorce.
All told, there were over 12 amendments offered and debated Friday, bringing the total considered by the House to 29. About 8 hours were spent considering the amendments before the main bill was addressed — and it was only toward the end of the 12th hour that the House finally passed the bill.
Rep. Jo Jordan (D), who is openly lesbian, stood by her historic vote against marriage equality. During her floor speech, she said that she had “no conviction” about the issue, but felt she could relate to the religious beliefs others were trying to protect. She also claimed that she never wanted to be a spokesperson for the LGBT community, and she was saddened that she had received such hate from that community.
Outside the chambers, both opponents and proponents of the marriage equality bill were actively demonstrating. The opponents’ chants of “Let the people vote!” could be heard inside the chamber throughout the day. Tensions were apparently so high, according to KITV 4, that bathrooms were segregated based on individuals’ position on the bill.
Together, Hawaii and Illinois have become the 15th and 16th states to pass marriage equality this past week. Hawaii’s bill is scheduled to take effect December 2.