November 9, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Hawaii House gives final approval to same-sex marriage bill
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Hawaii House of Representatives on Friday gave its final approval to a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the Aloha State.

The 30-19 vote took place 12 hours after lawmakers began debating the measure.

“This is about a move towards acceptance, tolerance and compassion,” state Rep. Sylvia Luke said.

State Rep. Mark Takai, who in 2011 voted against a bill that extended civil unions to same-sex couples in Hawaii, described Senate Bill 1 as the “right thing to do.”

“My yes vote for this bill is a vote for love, equality and fairness,” Takai said.

Lesbian state Rep. Jo Jordan is among those who voted against SB1.

“I had come to the decision that SB1 needed to [be] amended,” the lawmaker told Honolulu Magazine. “It wasn’t protective enough for everybody. And I truly know, my GLBT community is not going to go somewhere where they are not welcome.”

SB1 opponents also introduced 16 amendments to the bill that would have, among other things, created a task force to study the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples in Hawaii and further strengthen religious protections that already exist in the measure. Lawmakers rejected all of them in voice votes.

The Hawaii House approved the bill two days after the chamber passed it on its second reading following five days of testimony from SB1 supporters and opponents. The state Senate on Oct. 30 overwhelmingly approved the measure.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in 14 states and D.C.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Nov. 20 is scheduled to sign a bill into law that will allow same-sex marriage in his state.

The Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 ruled the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The ruling prompted the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act three years later that prohibited the federal government from legally recognizing gay nuptials.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June found a portion of DOMA unconstitutional.

Hawaiian voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment that allowed the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage.

“The state has a responsibility to those voters,” state Rep. Bob McDermott said as he testified against SB1.

Hawaii’s civil unions law took effect in 2012, but a federal judge in August of that year dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two same-sex couples who sought marriage rights in Hawaii. The plaintiffs appealed, and their case is pending in the U.S. Ninth Circuit alongside a second lawsuit that seeks to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Nevada.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie and 14 state attorneys general last month filed briefs with the court that urge it to rule in favor of nuptials for gays and lesbians in his state and Nevada.

The state Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to consider amendments to SB1 that the House approved.

Abercrombie is expected to sign the measure into law later next week.

“I commend the House of Representatives for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward,” the governor said. “After more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments and deliberating procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equality for same-sex couples and protect our First Amendment freedoms for religious organizations.”

Same-sex couples will be able to legally marry in Hawaii on Dec. 2 once Abercrombie signs SB1 into law.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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