HONOLULU - The state Senate advanced a bill to legalize gay marriage during a special session Tuesday, sending it to a final floor vote that would get the legislation to the House.
The final Senate vote is planned during a session that starts this morning. The bill is expected to pass there easily, then travel to the House, where its prospects are less certain.
The Senate's brief floor session Tuesday was far different than a committee hearing Monday that lasted nearly 12 hours with nearly 4,000 pages of written testimony and about 400 people testifying in person.
Hawaii state Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaks at a hearing on gay marriage at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Monday.
The bill passed its second reading with no amendments and no attempts to try to block it from moving forward.
In the House, tensions over gay marriage and a special session became publicly visible when Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican representing Ewa and Ewa Beach, introduced a resolution to dissolve a leadership coalition of majority and minority caucuses. McDermott was unhappy with the special session.
"The leadership coalition between the majority and minority caucuses of the House of Representatives has failed to operate with transparency or to institute a forthright, deliberate process," McDermott said in the resolution, which was shot down. "This failure has shortchanged the interests of the public and their representation in legislative matters."
House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said the exchange was an example of the divisions the gay marriage issue has caused in the House.
"I think this is showing what the level of opposition is," said Saiki, who supports passing gay marriage.
Saiki said the House will not take up a rival bill proposed by McDermott to introduce a constitutional amendment to explicitly ban gay marriage.
Sen. Clayton Hee, who led the public hearing Monday as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the first hearing this week showed people that understood the gravity of the issue at hand.
"I think for the most part people had the opportunity to express themselves," Hee said.
The testimony ranged widely in favor of or opposing the bill, touching on everything from religion and science to classroom education and personal experience.
Hee said 40 percent of written testimony came in favor of the bill, while 60 percent opposed gay marriage or the special session being used to consider the legislation.
Some who came to speak Monday complained when Hee and other lawmakers occasionally excused themselves for short breaks, which Hee said were mainly to use the bathroom.
A joint committee hearing in the House has been scheduled for Thursday if the bill passes the Senate.