By Derrick DePledge
The state Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee voted late Monday to advance a gay marriage bill after a daylong public hearing that explored themes of equality and religious liberty, first-class citizenship and the word of God.
The 5 to 2 vote came after the debate over marriage equality engulfed the state Capitol during the first day of a special legislative session called by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
"It's historic in the sense that there's a huge paradigm shift, but it's a shift that, in my opinion, bends the arc of justice towards the right way," Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua), the committee's chairman, said after the vote. "It takes us to a new level of equal rights."
The bill -- which was unamended -- now goes to the full Senate, where it is likely to be approved and sent to the state House.
Along with Hee, Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, Sen. Les Ihara, Jr., and Sen. Malama Solomon voted for the bill. Sen. Mike Gabbard and Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom voted against the bill.
Slom, the lone Republican in the Senate, said he did not believe the issue of same-sex marriage warranted a special session. "There's no urgency," he said before the vote. "I do believe that it is politically motivated from a governor who is slipping in the polls and who has mandated this session."
Hee said the committee received 3,459 pieces of written testimony as of Sunday morning. He said 2,073 were in opposition -- or about 60 percent -- while 1,386 were in support -- or 40 percent.
More than 1,800 people signed up to testify at Monday's hearing in the state Capitol auditorium, which opened at 10:30 a.m. and closed just before 10 p.m., with meal breaks in between.