November 12, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Hawaii same-sex marriage bill clears final hurdle

Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

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

A bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Hawaii on Tuesday cleared its final hurdle.

The 19-4 vote in the state Senate clears the way for Gov. Neil Abercrombie to sign Senate Bill 1 into law. He is expected to do so on Wednesday.

“Join with me in bending the arc of moral justice by confirming on all Americans equal treatment under the law,” state Sen. Clayton Hee said after he read a letter he received from Edith Windsor, the New York widow who challenged a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. “Let us confirm that all marriages are equal, regardless if they may be straight or gay.”

State Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland discussed her upbringing in a Christian and Buddhist household as she spoke emotionally in support of SB1.

“The bill before us provides an opportunity for the people of our state to nurture a just and more compassionate society,” she said.

The Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 ruled the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The ruling prompted the passage of DOMA 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.

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

The state’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 gay 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.

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 Hawaii House of Representatives on Friday gave its final approval to SB1 after lawmakers debated it for more than 12 hours. The chamber two days earlier passed the measure on its second reading following five days of testimony from its supporters and opponents.

The state Senate on Oct. 30 overwhelmingly approved SB1, but it had to consider amendments the House added to the measure.

“The Legislature has ignored the majority,” state Sen. Mike Gabbard said as he testified against the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, who introduced SB1, said lawmakers have “heard all the voices” on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Hawaii as he spoke in support of the measure.

“There must be no delay or no compromise or no hesitation with our purpose,” he said.

Same-sex couples will be able to marry in Hawaii on Dec. 2.

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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