November 13, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Hawaii same-sex marriage bill signed into law

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

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

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday signed a bill into law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples in his state.

“What happened in this Legislature is people… listened to what their role was in terms of upholding the constitution,” he said during the signing ceremony that took place at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. “It’s not a question of if its a special interest. It’s a question of if it promotes the public interest.”

Hawaii Attorney General David Louie spoke before the governor signed Senate Bill 1 into law.

“Today is a great day in Hawaii nei,” Louie said. “Today we move forward into a new era of aloha for same-sex couples who want to get married.”

Abercrombie signed the measure into law a day after the state Senate approved it by a 19-4 vote margin.

Senate Bill 1 passed in the Hawaii House of Representatives on Nov. 8 after lawmakers debated it for more than 12 hours. The chamber two days earlier approved the measure on its second reading following five days of testimony from SB1 supporters and opponents.

The state Senate on Oct. 30 overwhelmingly approved the bill, but it had to consider amendments the House added to it before Abercrombie signed it.

“Someday this world will accept all of us for who we are,” Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee Chair Clayton Hee said during the signing ceremony. “I could have never imagined that I would play a role in such a profound but in my mind a simple thing to do: bring justice and equality to all of us.”

Hawaii is among the 15 states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can now marry.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Nov. 20 is scheduled to sign a bill that would extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians in his state.

The Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 ruled the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Then-President Clinton three years later signed the Defense of Marriage Act 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 Aloha 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. Their case is currently pending in the U.S. Ninth Circuit alongside a second lawsuit that seeks to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Nevada.

“By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation,” President Obama said in a statement on Tuesday after SB1 received final approval in the state Senate. “I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder.”

ACLU-Hawaii Legal Director Lois Perrin, who co-founded Hawaii United for Marriage, which backed SB1, agreed.

“We join President Obama in praising our Legislature and the historic decision they made during this special session,” she said after Abercrombie signed SB1 into law. “We at Hawaii United for Marriage are proud that the majority of our lawmakers stood tall and recognized that marriage equality is simply the right thing to do.”

Gays and lesbians are expected to begin to legally marry in Hawaii on Dec. 2, but SB1 opponents are expected to file a lawsuit on Thursday that would block it from taking effect.

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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