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.