HONOLULU, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii cleared a state Senate committee and moved to the full Senate for a vote.
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee approved the bill following nearly 12 hours of testimony Monday during which more than 400 people addressed lawmakers, Hawaii News Now reported.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday. If it passes, it will go to the House, where a joint hearing before the Judiciary and Finance committees is scheduled Thursday.
The Senate legislation would recognize marriages between persons of the same gender and would extend to same-sex couples the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities that opposite-sex couples now have.
"This measure represents the committee's best effort to balance the interests of supporters and opponents of this issue," said state Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Judiciary and Labor Committee. "The Senate's bill preserves religious freedoms and ensures that the rights of all Americans are preserved as enshrined in the United States and Hawaii Constitutions."
During his testimony, Gov. Neil Abercrombie praised Senate leadership for drafting a proposal he said struck a balance between equal rights and religious freedom.
"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," the governor said.
Advocates and opponents were given two minutes to present their positions, Hawaii News Now said.
"I believe we should kill this bill ... and offer the people of Hawaii an opportunity to vote," one person testified.
"I humbly, humbly ask you to stand up for marriage equality today," another witness told the committee.