Hawaii Senate leader plans to agree on House's version of same-sex marriage bill

When Gov. Neil Abercrombie sat with gay marriage supporters in the House gallery on Friday, supporters greeted him with cheers and opponents greeted him with jeers.

Photo: Diane Lee

As early as next Tuesday, Hawaii could become the 15th state to allow gay couples to legally wed.

After nearly 57 hours of public testimony and two days of tiring floor debate, the state's House of Representatives on Friday voted 30-12 (2 excused) to approve legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii. When the full Senate reviews the measure on Tuesday, don't expect the session to drag on for days like the House.

Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor chairman, Sen. Clayton Hee says he will recommend that the Senate accept the House's version of Senate Bill 1.

“Looking at the exemptions that were broadened by the House, and although we would prefer it to be more narrow, we understand that the weight of the bill is really on the granting of same-sex marriage and not on the exemption,” Hee said in a statement.

Because of amendments introduced by the House committee, the Senate would need to sign off on the changes. The Senate could quickly vote in favor of the changes, then immediately send it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature.

There are 25 Senate members. The measure only needs a minimum of 13 favorable votes to pass.

An earlier version passed the Senate on a vote of 20-4 (1 excused), with Democratic Sens. Mike Gabbard, Donna Mercado Kim, Ronald Kouchi and lone Republican Sam Slom voting against it. Unless the Senators who voted in favor, change their vote or walk off from the roll call vote (as a way to stay neutral), the measure is likely to pass.

Still, opponents could delay the vote, as seen in the House, by introducing a number of floor amendments doomed for failure. Even though the House rejected the constitutional amendment to put the measure on the ballot, there's still a possiblity the Senate could introduce it on the floor. But Sen. Hee says they're planning to move quickly to pass it.

Gov. Abercrombie is expected to sign the proposal shortly after. At the earliest, the governor could sign the measure into law on Wednesday.

"I am confident that the Senate will address the bill in the same spirit," Abercrombie said in a statement. "I look forward to a successful conclusion to this major step in affirming everyone's civil rights."

The Senate is scheduled to convene 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Senate chambers. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

For live updates of the special session, visit our live blog. Also, check out our previous coverage