Opponents of gay marriage have taken full advantage of the state House's decision to hear from everyone who had signed up to testify on a marriage equality bill.
Greater openness and transparency are themes of the House leadership coalition, but the unprecedented hearing -- 41 hours and counting when it reconvenes on Monday morning -- may cause some reflection once the special session is over.
It was clear from the start that opponents, who received advice from House lawmakers who oppose or are undecided on the bill and instructions from religious leaders, were intent on delaying a vote by the House Judiciary Committee and House Finance Committee for as long as possible.
Garret Hashimoto of the Hawaii Christian Coalition on Friday captured the essence of the strategy by calling it a "people's filibuster."
Please advise your congregations that they should not get too comfortable with the big number that they have been given for their testimony. Once the House Committees run out of testifiers, the hearing WILL end. Our goal is a "People's Filibuster", but the filibuster ends when we run out of speakers.
Hashimoto amplified the strategy over the weekend by explaining to opponents how to prolong the hearing:
MONDAY IS CRITICAL. We need to drag the hearing out as long as possible but at least until 9:00 pm. The reason is because Chair Rhoads announced that decision-making would be right after the hearing (decision-making or DM means we will vote on the measure in committee). He is assuming we will be finished early on Monday and if this is the case, they will DM right after the hearing, and hold floor session on Monday night which will be 2nd reading. If Monday night is 2nd reading, then WED will be 3rd reading. Thus, all of our plans for the rally and flooding the house chambers for 3rd reading on Thursday will be moot.
The hearing on Monday begins at 11:00 am so if we go until 9:00 pm, we're talking about 10 hours. With 30 people testifying per hour (2 full minutes per testifier), all we need is 300 people to show up and testify!
We are currently on testifiers in the 4600 range. To be clear, 5100 testimonies were submitted. Last night, hardly anyone showed up that was numbered 4000-4600. And on Friday, ONLY ONE PERSON who was in the 1000-2000 group testified!
WE NEED AT LEAST 300-500 PEOPLE TO SHOW UP AND TESTIFY ON MONDAY TO ENSURE 2ND READING OCCURS ON TUES AND 3RD READING OCCURS ON THURSDAY, THE DAY OF OUR RALLY. THEY MUST SHOW UP AT 11 AM AND BE PREPARED TO HANG AROUND UNTIL THEY ARE CALLED TO TESTIFY.
PLEASE make the final pitch! Anyone who submitted testimony and who received a number MUST SHOW UP ON MONDAY TO TESTIFY! If they cannot make it, please find someone to show up on that person's "behalf." So for example, if John Doe has a number but cannot testify because he's at work, he has Jane Smith show up on his behalf and read his testimony. Jane is NOT REPLACING John's testimony with her own but is reading his testimony to the group in order to waste time! If you organize people from your churches who can stay at the capitol all day and "read testimony" on behalf of others, that may be a start.
House leaders have said that they felt it was important to give everyone a chance to speak on the marriage equality bill.
But the House has set a precedent that could be used by other interest groups that might find reasons to want to slow the legislative process to a crawl, particularly around important procedural deadlines during the regular session.