UPDATE: A Senate judiciary committee voted to move a bill that could legalize same sex marriage in Hawaii to the full senate for consideration. The decision came after nearly 12 hours of testimony Monday.
Will Hawaii become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage? That's what lawmakers are deciding as a special session on the controversial bill got underway Monday morning.
More than 1,800 people signed up to testify on Monday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing began at 10:30 a.m.
With all eyes on the Hawaii State Capitol, both sides of the same-sex marriage issue tried to gain support, waving signs outside and giving passionate pleas to lawmakers inside.
With so many expected to testify, people were only limited to one minute of testimony, Gov. Neil Abercrombie was the first.
"Our whole focus has been on trying to accommodate the First Amendment here with respect to people's religious rights and that's been done in good faith," Gov. Abercrombie said.
"The reservation of marriage to the union of one man and one woman is a fact of nature, not a social prejudice," said Father Gary Secor of the Hawaii Catholic Conference.
"This isn't about gender, it shouldn't be about orientation. It's about two adults having the freedom to choose to be together and have that togetherness, that union, our marriage accepted in the eyes of the law, just as any other couple," said Bradley Kane, who supports the bill.
Some lawmakers grilled state Attorney General David Louie, asking whether Hawaii couples could get married in other states where same-sex marriage is legal and return to Hawaii to receive the benefits. He said they would get tax benefits, but not others.
"And so I believe there would be some health consequences that would be discriminatory to same-sex couples who would not be able to claim those benefits under FMLA or Medicaid when they're here in Hawaii," Louie said.
The governor called the special session, hoping to tackle the bill now instead of waiting for the legislative session.
While lawmakers reportedly believe there's enough support to pass the bill, the state remains divided.
"I have heard what has happened in other places that's enacted same-sex marriage and I'm not in favor of the type of curriculum that is being forced on the parents, teachers and most of all the keiki," said Joy Chinen, who opposes the bill.
"We parents with PFLAG never throw our children out. We don't disown them. We hug them. We care for them and we love them," said Carolyn Golojuch, who supports the bill.
Some people who testified on Monday also believe lawmakers should not make this decision and that the voters should be the ones to decide.
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