HONOLULU — 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.