HONOLULU - The Hawaii House has moved forward a bill to legalize gay marriage to a final vote after a nearly 11-hour hearing that featured political maneuvering and crowds outside the chamber.
The House voted Wednesday night 30-18 to move forward the bill, with three members excused. The bill will go to a final reading Friday.
If it passes the House, the bill will have to be approved by the state Senate because of three amendments.
Two House committees have already amended the bill that would allow gay couples to marry in the state beginning Nov. 18, delaying the start date to Dec. 2 and slightly broadening a religious exemption that covers clergy and religious organizations. The committee also deleted language from the bill that related to how children of gay couples could qualify for Native Hawaiian benefits.
Wednesday's vote came after several rejected attempts to modify and change the bill, plus smaller votes that revealed support to move along the measure.
House lawmakers took turns giving testimony that ranged from sarcastic to emotional.
One lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Jo Jordan of Waianae, said on the floor that she would oppose the bill - despite her thoughts and beliefs and gay marriage potentially benefiting her personally.
Jordan said she set aside her beliefs when she listened to five days of testimony during a joint committee hearing and listened with an open heart. Much of the spoken public testimony during the hearing came in opposition to the bill.
"I might vote against something that I personally believe in. I personally believe I should have the right," Jordan said. "You know how hard it is for me to say no? I have to say no."
A floor session started Wednesday morning and immediately went into recess, with majority members in the Democratic-heavy House meeting in caucus to discuss amendments to a bill that spurred five days of public testimony at a committee hearing.
When lawmakers returned, chants of "let the people vote" from opponents of gay marriage disrupted discussion of changes proposed on the floor.
"Excuse me, the door's supposed to be closed," House Speaker Joseph Souki of Maui said as he tried to keep the meeting in order.
Lawmakers proposed even more changes on the floor of the House.
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a Democrat who has said he has reservations about the bill, proposed an amendment to delay discussion so lawmakers could have more flexibility to review more than 20,000 pieces of written testimony and spoken testimony from more than 5,000 people who signed up.
The amendment was rejected by a voice vote, as were two more amendments that proposed wider religious exemptions, including one that said if any part of the law is struck down in court, the whole gay marriage law would be overturned.