Gay union bill expected to soar through Senate

HONOLULU – The head of Hawaii’s Senate judiciary committee said Saturday that he expects an amended bill legalizing gay marriage to pass easily in the Senate this week, with no changes to the measure passed by the House on Friday night after two grueling floor sessions and a lengthy public hearing.

Senate approval would send the bill to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature. He is expected to sign after calling the lawmakers into special session and saying he approved changes to the bill made by the House.

Sen. Clayton Hee told reporters during a news conference Saturday that he will recommend to Senate Democrats that they pass the bill during their Tuesday floor session. Hee said that decision comes after conferring with the Senate’s president and majority leader as well as a staff attorney.

“There are very few opportunities to participate in government in decisions that define your career,” Hee said, seated in a conference room next to Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria. “And this is one of those decisions that will define the careers of all of the members in the Legislature.”

The Senate has 25 members – 24 Democrats and one Republican. An earlier version of the bill easily passed the chamber 20-4 on Oct. 30 before going through a rockier journey in the House.

“I believe the vote on Tuesday will be 21-4 if everyone is there,” Hee said. He said he expected no filibuster attempts or floor amendments to delay the process.

It’s not immediately clear when the governor would sign the bill. Abercrombie was away from the Capitol in Honolulu, on Kauai to make remarks at two afternoon events.

The measure would allow same-sex weddings to begin on Dec. 2.

House lawmakers passed the bill 30-19 with two lawmakers excused on Friday night, capping a 12-hour session that had its share of drama even though the measure had strong support as expected.

Maui lawmakers voting “no” were Kahului Rep. Justin Woodson and East Maui-Molokai-Lanai Rep. Mele Carroll.

After the final vote Friday night, Woodson released a statement via email saying, “I strongly support affording federal rights to everyone. However, we should do so in a way which does not legislate any religious document. However, I respect the decision of the House body.”

Passionate crowds in the Capitol rotunda drew increased security and could be heard from the chamber floor throughout the day. A gay lawmaker voted against the bill, drawing jeers from gay marriage supporters as she explained her position.

In expressing his support for same-sex marriage, South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing quoted Seattle rapper Macklemore twice.

“I agree with Macklemore. It’s the same love,” Ing said, quoting the platinum-selling artist’s hit “Same Love.”

“It was very emotional,” said House Speaker Joe Souki of Wailuku.

Abercrombie was simultaneously cheered and booed as he entered the galley to watch testimony for about one hour, with one gay marriage opponent shouting at him before being escorted out by security.

And supporters outside erupted in cheers after the final vote was tallied, hugging and crying at the result.

A total of 14 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, with a bill in Illinois awaiting only the governor’s signature.