Maui on the mind

South Maui

South Maui

I’ve had Maui on my mind lately.

It’s not a surprise — I went there (during the height of icepocalypse, no less!) for a story. That story runs in tomorrow’s edition of Dallas Voice.

What’s surprising, though, is that I’m not the only one obsessed with Maui. The finale of the current season of Top Chef, which runs in two parts starting next Wednesday, moves from New Orleans to Maui (it had its finale two seasons ago there, too). And tonight, another Bravo show, the personal trainer romp Toned Up goes to Maui.

I doubt these TV shows went there specifically because of the state’s support for marriage equality — one reason I did. But if I were to guess why people keep heading there? Well, check on the photos below for a clue. And check out our Hawaii coverage Friday!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Court challenge to Hawaii’s new marriage law fails

Rep. Bob McDermott

Rep. Bob McDermott

A Hawaiian judge heard a complaint filed by state Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican who voted against the state’s new marriage-equality law. After an hour of testimony, the judge ruled the new law constitutional.

Anti-equality activists claim the state constitutional amendment forbids the Legislature from passing a marriage-equality law.

The amendment reads: “The Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

The judge interpreted that to mean that the Legislature may limit marriage but doesn’t have to limit marriage to opposite sex couples. Marriage equality begins in the state on Dec. 2. Although the Legislature has the power, it decided not to exercise it in this case.

In addition to people traveling from the mainland to Hawaii to marry, the state is expecting a large influx of same-sex couples from Japan. Since 2009, Japan has recognized marriages performed outside the country, although it does not offer marriage equality at home.

Japanese make up 200 percent of Hawaii’s tourists. More than 27,000 Japanese couples married in Hawaii in 2010, the year before the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. As Japan continues to recover, that number is expected to increase, and same-sex couples who don’t have the option of marrying at home are expected to be a large part of the increase.

—  David Taffet

Hawaii governor signs marriage equality bill

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Gov. Neil Abercrombie signing marriage equality bill

Hawaii became the 16th state to pass marriage equality but will become the 15th state where marriages are performed.

Although Illinois passed marriage equality last week, the law doesn’t go into effect until June. When Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed his state’s marriage equality law Wednesday, his state jumped ahead of Illinois.

Marriage equality begins in Hawaii on Dec. 2, according to Honolulu’s CBS affiliate KHON-TV.

The bill originally passed the Senate without religious exemptions. The House tacked on religious protections, so it had to return to the Senate for approval. That approval came yesterday.

Abercrombie signed the bill at an invitation-only ceremony held at the Honolulu Convention Center.

Although marriage equality sailed through a two-week special session called by the governor, the issue has been brewing in the state since 1990 when a lesbian couple sued for the right to marry. A court agreed and put the burden of proof on the state to show it had any interest in preventing same-sex couples from marrying.

After the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, Hawaii added a consitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples, which they did until passage of  marriage equality law Tuesday.

Last-ditch arguments in the Senate yesterday included one opponent claiming the bill discriminated against bisexuals. Then the Senate’s lone Republican argued that without bipartisan support, the bill shouldn’t pass. That meant the Senate should vote against any bill be didn’t agree with.

Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel who filed the original marriage case split in 1997 but have remained friends. Their attorney, Evan Wolfson, now heads the group Freedom to Marry.

Marriage is now legal in 15 states, 8 counties in New Mexico, the District of Columbia and the Arapaho Cheyenne Reservation in Oklahoma. Illinois’ governor plans to sign his state’s marriage equality bill on Nov. 20.

—  David Taffet

Hawaii Senate passes gay marriage bill

FRANCE-POLITICS-GAY-MARRIAGEHONOLULU — After hours of hand-wringing debate and public testimony, lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage, msnbc.com reported.

The state Senate voted 19-4, sending a wave of applause across the packed gallery. The measure will go to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, who could sign as early as Wednesday.

Hawaii joins Illinois, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Delaware in voting to legalize marriage equality this year. Illinois voted last week to legalize marriage equality, and, along with Hawaii, will join 14 states and the District of Columbia in allowing two people to marry regardless of sexual orientation.

An estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says the law will boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years, as Hawaii becomes an outlet for couples in other states, bringing ceremonies, receptions and honeymoons to the islands, USA Today said. The study’s author has said Hawaii would benefit from pent-up demand for gay weddings, with couples spending $166 million over those three years on ceremonies and honeymoons.

The measure is the culmination of more than two decades of debate in the state, where two women in 1990 famously applied for a marriage license, touching off a court battle and eventual national discussion on gay marriage.

The case led to Congress passing the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, part of which was struck down earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision that legally married same-sex couples could qualify for federal benefits led Abercrombie to call the special session in Hawaii.

The Hawaii law allows same-sex couples to marry in the Aloha State beginning Dec. 2.

—  Steve Ramos

BREAKING: Hawaiian Senate poised to pass marriage equality today

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State Rep. Bob McDermott

The Hawaii Senate has convened since at 10 a.m. this morning local (2 p.m. Central Time) for final consideration of a marriage equality bill that would grant same-sex partners the right to wed. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it into law, after which marriages can begin on Dec. 2.

Last week, the bill passed the House on a vote of 30–19 after the addition of some religious exemptions that were not in the original bill.

Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott said he would file a temporary restraining order against the marriage equality bill if it passed the Senate today. A state judge agreed to hear the case, according to the Washington Post.

The claim is based on a 1998 constitutional amendment that allows the legislature to define marriage. Constitutional amendments in other states have outlawed same-sex marriage; the Hawaii amendment did not do that.

While the bill passed the House easily, one of its opponents was Jo Jordan, a lesbian. She is the first openly gay legislator in the U.S. to vote against marriage equality.

She said she was unhappy with the religious exemption. However, had she been interested in passing marriage equality, she would have been involved with writing the bill in the first place and not just voiced her objection after the bill passed.

—  David Taffet

Hawaii House passes same-sex marriage bill

imagesHONOLULU — The list of states allowing same-sex marriage grows as the Hawaii House of Representatives voted 30-19 to pass SB1 on Friday, allowing the unions, NBC reported.

The measure returns to the Senate, where it had been approved late last month, 20-4. The Senate is expected to re-convene Tuesday.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he would sign the bill into law, putting the state in line to be the 15th or 16th to approve same-sex marriage rights, depending on when the governor of Illinois signs a same-sex marriage bill passed there Tuesday.

Opponents in Hawaii gathered outside the Hawaii State Capitol during House deliberations.

“It was a very emotional few days,” said Colin Moore, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, NBC reported. “This is a very unusual thing here. This kind of very aggressive political activity, these kinds of very big public protests happen here, but they’re pretty rare.”

Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

—  Steve Ramos

This week in marriage equality

Supreme-Court

Attorneys in Austin at the Supreme Court after the divorce case was heard

Illinois

Illinois became marriage equality state No. 15 this week.

The Illinois House passed marriage equality on Tuesday. The bill went back to the Senate for a final vote. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign it in a ceremony on Nov. 20. Marriage equality begins in Illinois on June 1.

Hawaii

After the Hawaii state Senate voted last week to approve same-sex marriage, the bill moved to the House, which debated the issue all week. Opponents tried to put the issue on the ballot but failed.

The House passed the bill 30–18 and was set for a final vote Friday. Then the bill goes back to the Senate one last vote.

If passed, marriage equality could begin next week. If passed and signed Monday, Hawaii might beat Illinois to actually become equality state No. 15.

Texas

The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in two divorce cases. The central question is whether Texas can grant a divorce without recognizing the marriage. Georgia takes that approach. If the court rules that the divorces are void, then the state is re-instating rather than ending two same-sex marriages.

—  David Taffet

Hawaii Senate passes bill to legalize gay marriage

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HONOLULU — The legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii moved forward after the State Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to repeal a voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, The New York Times reported.

The bill passed easily, 20-4, with three Democrats voting with the Senate’s only Republican to oppose the measure. If the State House approves the bill, Hawaii would become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the House 44-7. A House committee is expected to hold a hearing on the measure Thursday.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki has said it’s likely the chamber will amend the bill to change religious exemptions. The Senate bill exempts ministers and other clergy members — but not commercial businesses — from having to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

—  Steve Ramos

Hawaii Legislature to debate same-sex marriage

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Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie

HONOLULU — Two decades after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled it was discriminatory to deny marriage rights to same-sex couple, the state could be the next one to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Fourteen states now recognize same-sex marriage.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, called a special session of the Legislature that begins today to discuss the legislation. The Associated Press reported the legislative hearings are expected to draw heavy crowds, with an opposition rally planned Monday night.

Political observers say Abercrombie wouldn’t have called the Legislature back into special session if he wasn’t assured the legislation would pass. Hawaii has only eight Republican legislators, seven in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate.

After the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling, a conservative backlash ended with a constitutional amendment in 1998 that limited the right to marry to heterosexual couples. The tide began to turn after Abercrombie was elected in 2010, and he signed a same-sex civil union bill into law in 2011 and has been a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage.

The debate over same-sex marriage has long divided the Aloha State, and the special session has generated rival demonstrations. Supporters organized an “All You Need Is Love” rally Sunday, and opponents will stage a “Let The People Decide” rally Monday night, AP reported.

—  Steve Ramos

3 states vie to become next with marriage equality

neilabercrombie

Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The governor said he would call a special session to consider a marriage equality bill.

No, not Rick Perry, and no, not in Texas.

The governor is Neil Abercrombie and the state is Hawaii, where the idea of marriage equality began two decades ago and special sessions are called for constructive purposes. Abercrombie announced his intentions on his blog yesterday and posted the draft of the bill.

Hawaii currently has civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits as marriage on a state level but, since the Defense of Marriage Act ruling in June, are not equal on a federal level.

Baehr v. Lewin was filed in 1991 and the state Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Hawaiian constitution. A state law prohibiting same-sex marriage passed in 1994. That was found unconstitutional in 1996 but a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman passed in 1998.

In 2009, the first civil union bill passed in Hawaii. The Republican governor vetoed it. After Abercrombie, a Democrat, was elected in 2011, it passed again and he signed it. Now Hawaii may become the next marriage equality state.

That is, if New Mexico doesn’t beat them to it. Six New Mexico counties have started issuing marriage licenses in the last week, but yesterday, all 33 county clerks asked the state Supreme Court for a statewide ruling.

And in Illinois, where a marriage equality bill has been languishing since the beginning of the year, the American Civil Liberties Union hired former state Republican chair Pat Brady to lobby Republican legislators. Brady was forced from his position because of his pro-equality stance. The bill has already passed the state Senate and needs to pass in the House. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign the bill.

—  David Taffet