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House committees advance marriage equality bill

MEDIA RELEASE

After five days and nearly 57 hours of testimony, the House Judiciary and Finance Committees passed SB1 HD1, relating to equal rights, out of committee with amendments broadening exemptions for religious organizations and those performing solemnizations.

The measure was approved Tuesday by the Judiciary and Finance Committees in a vote of 18 to 12.

SB1 HD1 recognizes marriages between individuals of the same gender. In addition, the measure extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage to which opposite-sex couples are presently entitled.

The House draft amends the Senate version of SB1 in the following areas:

REFUSAL TO SOLEMNIZE A MARRIAGE:

* No requirement if in violation of “religious beliefs or faith”

* Including immunity from administrative, civil and legal liability for failure or refusal to solemnize

CHURCH FACILITIES

* Applies to “religious organizations” and “nonprofit organizations operated, supervised or controlled by a religious organization”

* No requirement to provide “goods, services, or its facilities or grounds for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of its religious beliefs or faith”

* Exemption applies to religious organizations and the nonprofit organizations specified above even if the activity is “for profit”

* Immunity from administrative, civil and legal liability for failure or refusal

RIGHT OF PARENTS

* Deletes this provision

CIVIL UNIONS

* Conforms the above exemptions to the existing civil unions statue (HRS 572B)

EFFECTIVE DATE

* Changed to December 2, 2013

The hearing drew immense public input—with 5,184 registered testifiers 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.

The measure now goes before the full House of Representatives for a vote on second reading. Session will convene 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov 6.

Governor and Attorney General Statement on Amendments to SB 1

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and State Attorney General David Louie released the following statement regarding amendments to Senate Bill 1 – Relating to Equal Rights:

“The amendments outlined in House Draft 1 strike a balance between the bill that was introduced by the Legislature and concerns raised in written and oral testimony during public hearings.

“We support the principle that any measure on marriage equity must protect religious freedom, which the Legislature has clearly worked to achieve.

“The bill as amended is legally sound and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution.

“We urge the Legislature to pass this bill, which will provide marriage equity and fully recognize religious beliefs in that context.”

Statement by Superintendent Matayoshi on Senate Bill 1

Hawaii State Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi made the following statement to address the rising discussion over the DOE’s role in the current special session regarding Senate Bill 1:

“It has come to our attention that statements are being made before the Legislature claiming to represent the State of Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) and what is taught in our public schools.

“For the record, the DOE does not have marriage as a lesson in its curriculum. The DOE and its public schools remain committed to teaching all students regardless of their home situation. We understand that our students come from a variety of backgrounds, whether the adult caregivers in their lives are married, single, in a civil union, a grandparent, foster parents or incarcerated parents, are divorced, or divorced and remarried. Whatever the case may be, we support, care for and educate all children to help them fulfill their potential. We teach students how to treat each other with respect and aloha. We hope that all adults can share in the responsibility as a community of living aloha.

“The DOE is also equally committed to providing a safe and enjoyable learning atmosphere for students, families and educators and promoting a sense of belonging and acceptance for all in our school communities.”

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