By Derrick DePledge
State House lawmakers reconvened a public hearing this morning on a gay marriage bill and vowed to hear from the 5,181 people who had signed up to testify by midnight.
Rep. Karl Rhoads, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said people who are not present today when their names are called will have to wait until the end to testify but that he would allow them to speak.
Rhoads made the announcements after complaints from House lawmakers who oppose the bill that the committee was skipping over people who were not in the state Capitol auditorium when the hearing reconvened at 8:30 a.m.
"I'd like to finish the hearing this century," Rhoads told colleagues.
Rhoads and Rep. Sylvia Luke, the chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, had announced shortly after midnight -- after 14 hours of testimony -- that the meeting would recess until 8:30 a.m. after initially indicating their preference to continue with testimony.
During a brief recess this morning, when tensions in the audience were high, Rep. Marcus Oshiro stood at the back of the auditorium and told people that they had a First Amendment right to speak and petition their government.
Oshiro complained that no public notice was given that the hearing would reconvene, so as many as 3,000 people might not know they were supposed to return to the state Capitol in the morning.
"This is not right as far as the public hearing process," Oshiro shouted, "that's what I'm voicing."
Oshiro told the audience that House rules have the effect of law. "Whether you are for or against this measure, you need to know the rules that you have!" Oshiro said.
Oshiro later told reporters that House leaders should follow both the spirit and the letter of the public notice requirement.
"Either in the court of law, or in the court of public opinion, there's that taint," he said. "And that's what we're trying to avoid because if you really want to do justice to this issue and this measure, then you need to afford all due process, procedural requirements to the `T.'
House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said the hearing on Thursday was properly noticed and that the announcement to recess until the morning was not in violation of any procedure.
House lawmakers who oppose the bill -- and some of those who say they are undecided, like Oshiro -- have deliberately sought to slow the process down.
Late Thursday, a few House lawmakers and other opponents of the bill appealed to people to come to the Capitol before midnight so they could sign up to testify and extend the hearing longer.
A few hundred people arrived at the Capitol in the hours before midnight to sign up.