Governor signs bill, slating marriages to start Dec. 2; Ill. governor to sign marriage bill next week, bringing marriage-equality state count to 16
By OSKAR GARCIA | Associated Press
HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill this week legalizing gay marriage, positioning the islands for more newlywed tourists.
Abercrombie signed the bill Wednesday morning at an invitation-only ceremony at the Hawaii Convention Center, near the tourist heart of Waikiki.
The measure will allow thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2.
Another 14 states and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage, while a bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois.
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 Abercrombie signed his state’s marriage-equality law, his state jumped ahead of Illinois.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he’ll sign his state’s measure during a special ceremony in Chicago on Nov. 20. Same-sex marriages will begin in Illinois in June.
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 same-sex marriage.
President Barack Obama praised the bill’s passage, saying the affirmation of freedom and equality makes the country stronger.
“Hawaii joins a growing number of states that recognize that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” Obama said. “Whenever freedom and equality are affirmed, our country becomes stronger. By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation. I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder. And Michelle and I extend our best wishes to all those in Hawaii whose families will now be given the security and respect they deserve.”
Senators passed the bill 19-4 on Tuesday with two lawmakers excused. Cheers erupted inside and outside the gallery when the vote was taken, with a smattering of boos. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who voted against the bill, banged her gavel and told members of the public to quiet down.
More than half the chamber’s lawmakers spoke in support of the bill, with many urging the public to come together to heal divisions within the community.
“This is nothing more than the expansion of aloha in Hawaii,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, a Democrat from Maui.
Sen. Sam Slom, the chamber’s only Republican, said the government should stay out of legislating marriage.
“People have differences, and you can’t legislate morality. You can try, but you can’t do it,” Slom said before voting against the bill.
Rep. Bob McDermott, a House lawmaker who filed a lawsuit to try to derail the special session, promised a new challenge once
Abercrombie signs the bill. A judge said he would take the case only after the law fully passes.
An estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says same-sex marriage 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.
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 Senate had to take up the bill a second time because of changes made in the House, where the bill was amended and eventually passed.
The House amendments delayed the date ceremonies could begin, slightly expanded an exemption for clergy and religious organizations, and removed regulations determining how children of same-sex couples could qualify for Native Hawaiian benefits.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 15, 2013.