(Update) Hawaii Special Session for SB1 – Hawaii Marriage Equity Act approved by House, back to the Senate

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

News Release from Hawaii House of Representatives November 8, 2013
Hawai`i Free Press:

EqualThe state House of Representatives voted late Friday to pass SB1 HD1, relating to equal rights, on third reading.

The measure was approved by a vote of 30 to 19, with two members excused.

The House draft
includes amendments, modeled after similar language in Connecticut law,
significantly broadening exemptions for religious organizations and
clergy performing solemnization.

Religious
organizations and affiliated nonprofits would be exempted from having to
furnish goods, services, or its facilities or grounds for the
solemnization or the celebration of solemnizations if it is in violation
of its religious beliefs or faith.

It also
specifies that clergy and religious officers are not required to
solemnize if it is against their religious beliefs or faith.

The measure also
grants immunity from administrative, civil and legal liability to
religious organizations and officials for the failure or refusal to
provide services, goods, or facilities as described.

The issue was
discussed in House committee hearings spanning five days and nearly 57
hours of public testimony. There were 5,184 registered testifiers, with
over 1,000 people testifying, and nearly 24,400 written testimonies
submitted.

As far as House
members could recall, the public hearing on SB1 was the longest hearing
on a single bill in the modern history of the Hawaii House of
Representatives.

Based on
concerns and issues raised during the public hearing the bill was
amended to expand the religious exemptions for churches and religious
organizations that do not want to solemnize same gender marriages.

The bill is now
transmitted to the Hawaii State Senate for their consideration. Upon
approval of the changes by the Senate, the bill will be transmitted to
the governor for his signature into law.

If the Senate rejects the amendments, the bill will go into conference committee.

The Senate is scheduled to convene Tuesday, Nov. 12, to vote on the amended House bill.

Governor’s Statement

The state House of Representatives voted tonight to pass SB1 HD1 Relating to Equal Rights.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie stated:

“I commend the House of Representatives for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward.

“After more than
50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides
of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments, and deliberating
procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this
significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage
equity for same-sex couples and protects our First Amendment freedoms
for religious organizations.

“I applaud
Speaker Souki, Judiciary Chair Rhoads, Finance Chair Luke, Majority
Leader Saiki and the rest of the leadership team for their patience,
fairness and hard work in shepherding this bill through the House.

“I am confident
that the Senate will address the bill in the same spirit. I look forward
to a successful conclusion to this major step in affirming everyone’s
civil rights.”

More information on the bill is available on the Capitol website at: SB1HD1 Text, Status.

Opponents of marriage equality have vowed to continue their opposition in court. Hawaii House passes same-sex marriage bill:

Hawaii allows civil unions for same-sex couples.

A group of people opposed to same-sex marriage had sought a temporary restraining order to block Abercrombie from signing any such measure passed by the Legislature, but Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled Thursday that the action would be premature.

But the judge has said he is willing to hear the case at a later date, said attorney Jack Dwyer, who represents the group.

The plaintiffs contend that a 1998 state constitutional amendment prohibits the Legislature from allowing same-sex marriage, and they want to prevent any government official from issuing a marriage license until the question of constitutionality is decided.

State Atty. Gen. David Louie said the Legislature had the authority to approve same-sex marriage regardless of the amendment.

It is not clear from the reporting how this new lawsuit may be affected by the state of Hawaii's position in the same-sex marriage appeal currently pending in the Ninth Cirtcuit Court of Appeals, Jackson v. Abercrombie. Gov. Neil Abercrombie
previously said that passage of gay marriage would help resolve the lawsuit and put Hawaii
in line with Supreme Court rulings. FindLaw reported, Nev. Same-Sex Marriage Briefs Filed; Hawaii Lawmakers to Meet Monday:

As we reported earlier, the legal battle in Hawaii's consolidated case was delayed for approximately one month in order to accommodate the state's upcoming special legislative session, set to commence Monday.

Should the legislature fail to exercise its power to recognize same
sex marriages, opening briefs are due to the Ninth Circuit [in the case of Jackson v. Abercrombie] by late
November. If they vote in favor of recognition, the case would likely be
dismissed as moot.

It would appear Hawaii could take the same position that the state of California did in declining to defend Prop. 8 in court. Opponents of marriage equality would have issues of standing and an actual case and controversy. They are not in a favorable legal position in light of recent court decisions.

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