Hawaii lawmakers question benefits of gay marriage

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 29, 2013 at 4:03 am •  Published: October 29, 2013
Advertisement
;

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's battle over gay marriage brought state lawmakers back to work Monday after the governor called a special session that could make the islands a wedding destination for more couples.

Some 1,800 people signed up to testify in person at a Senate committee hearing, which was carried live on TV and local news websites. Dozens of people gathered around three televisions in the Capitol rotunda, cheering testimony they agreed with and singing songs.

Opponents of gay marriage solicited honks and shaka signs from passing motorists on the street, staging a large rally of hundreds of people timed with afternoon rush hour.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill nearly 12 hours after testimony began, sending the bill to a floor vote expected on Tuesday.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the special session after House and Senate lawmakers couldn't muster the two-thirds support needed to do it themselves. He says passing a bill would put Hawaii in line with two Supreme Court rulings that affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Hawaii already allows civil unions, and some members of a Senate committee questioned Monday whether it was important to also allow gay marriage.

After Hawaii Attorney General David Louie said same-sex couples in civil unions in Hawaii who got married in other states would essentially get similar benefits to couples married under the new law, Republican Sen. Sam Slom questioned the point of debating further.

His comments drew responses of "Amen" from some in the crowd.

But Louie, who supports legalizing gay marriage, said traveling to the U.S. mainland is no small issue, given costs and effort needed to arrange a marriage in other states.

"That is not an unsubstantial burden," Louie said.

Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee asked Louie to prepare a report detailing any other tangible benefits Hawaii couples would gain or lose, including implications for taxes, insurance and other federal and state benefits.

Louie promised a response and said a law may have implications for Medicaid and Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.