10 Memorable Moments from Hawaii's Same-Sex Marriage Debate
On Dec. 2, Hawaii’s gay and lesbian couples will be able to legally wed. But it was a heated battle to get there. The Hawaii House committee five-day public hearing was the lengthiest and most attended in recent memory. Here are some of the most memorable moments in the controversial debate over legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
Photo: Michael Keany
The state House Judiciary and Finance committees heard nearly 57 hours of public testimony over five days. From more than 1,000 people, many skipped work to testify. Some sang songs, such as “Hawaii Ponoi.” Others read passages from the Bible. There were even those who deliberately spoke slowly to delay the hearing.
When one woman realized she had half a minute left on the clock, she started saying, over and over, “Kill the bill. Kill the bill.”
State Rep. Karl Rhoads, annoyed, said, “Please don’t just say that for another 30 seconds.” The woman continued repeating, “Kill the bill. Kill the bill,” until her time was up.
During the House public hearing, state Rep. Gene Ward drilled a testifier at length, finally prompting state Rep. Sylvia Luke to order him to stop. Ward continued asking questions, so Luke hit the gavel and announced the hearing was adjourned—to the dismay of the audience. She paused, and then added, “Just joking.”
State Rep. Sharon Har, not in the room at the time, must have missed the joke. When she returned to her seat, she asked Luke, “You literally said you were joking; you did not, in fact, adjourn the hearing?”
“I didn’t mean to say recess,” Luke replied. “I just wanted to throw my gavel at him; it accidently hit the block.” The crowded laughed out loud.
At the House public hearing, molecular biologist Dean Hamer testified that being gay wasn’t a choice, arguing for the existence of a gay gene.
During the Q&A session, state Rep. Bob McDermott asked Hamer to explain further: “I’m not a molecular biologist, but please explain the Spartans and ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans, the men in the time of Alexander the Great where homosexuality was rampant and the norm. Did they all have a genetic deviation?”
Hamer’s response: “Oh dear, you’re confusing molecular science with ancient history—those are different fields.”
State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers president Tenari Maafala sparked controversy for his testimony when he said the measure would turn him from a law enforcer into a lawbreaker.
“The day I retire, and bills like this are introduced, I will never, ever, honor such law,” Maafala said. “You would have to kill me to disrespect and dishonor my father in heaven. You would have to kill me to impose these types of laws upon my children and my nieces and nephews.”
The state’s youngest lawmaker, Rep. Kaniela Ing, voiced his support for same-sex marriage despite his Christian background (read more). Ing’s speech on the House floor included pop culture references, citing the “great philosopher Macklemore.”
“To me, this bill is about love and acceptance. In Hawaii, we call it aloha. One person in the audience stated that it’s the wrong love. I don’t agree. Again, I agree with Macklemore: It’s the same love,” Ing said.
Supporters and opponents were divided, literally, at the state Capitol when lines were drawn at the Capitol rotunda, inside the House gallery and along Beretania Street. The loudest protesters kept chanting for days on end, “Let the people vote! Let the people vote!”
In his closing speech before the final House vote, state Rep. Richard Lee Fale told the legislative body he considered bringing apples, bags of Pedigree dog food and kitty litter to the chamber.
"The dog food and the apples were for the dog and pony show we’ve had in the past couple of weeks," Fale said. "And the kitty litter is for the smell and the stink that has been caused by this special session."
State Rep. Jo Jordan made national news for being the first openly gay lawmaker to vote against same-sex marriage (read more).
“I might vote against something that I personally believe in. I personally believe I should have the right. You know how hard it is for me to say no? I have to say no,” Jordan said.
Rep. Gene Ward was one of the most firery opponents, drawing on all kinds of arguments. People thought he went too far when he compared the passage of gay marriage to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
"Speaker, when this bill passes, Hawaii will never be the same just as it happened after 9/11," Ward said.
After lengthy speeches, a blessing by Kumu Hina and an emotional performance by Hawaiian singers Amy Hanaialii and Willie K., Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 1 House Draft 1 into law with the stroke of a koa pen.
“DONE!” Abercrombie shouted.
Have other favorite moments from the special session? Feel free to add your favorites below.
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