Hawaii begins debate over whether to legalize gay marriage

Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:05pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Treena Shapiro

HONOLULU (Reuters) - Hawaii started debating on Monday a proposal that would make the popular wedding and honeymoon destination the 15th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, repealing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that banned gay matrimony.

Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie appeared as the first witness in support of the measure with more than 1,800 people signed up to address the state Senate Judiciary Committee during a special session called by the governor.

The debate this week in Hawaii, which allows civil unions, comes at a time of increasing momentum for gay marriage in the courts, at the ballot box and statehouses across the country.

The governor stressed that the proposal was crafted to address opponents' concerns that legalizing gay marriage would infringe on religious freedom. The proposal exempts clergy and churches from having to perform same-sex marriages.

"Our whole focus has been on trying to accommodate the First Amendment here with respect to people's religious rights, and that's been done in good faith," Abercrombie said.

Hearings in the state House of Representatives are scheduled to open on Thursday.

Democrats hold an overwhelming majority over Republicans in both chambers - 24-1 in the Senate and 44-7 in the House - virtually assuring passage of a gay marriage bill.

GAY RIGHTS GAINING MOMENTUM   Continued...

 
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie reads a quote from the Dalai Lama as he gives testimony in support of same sex marriage during a Senate hearing at the Hawaii State Capital in Honolulu October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry