Hawai’i moved swiftly to secure equal marriage after Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s special session call came to pass this week. Wednesday marked the legalization of marriage equality for all Hawai’i citizens as Abercrombie signed the bill into law at the Convention Center in Waikiki. It was an invitation-only event.
For many, it was the ideal reconciliation to a discussion that started in the Aloha State and sparked the marriage debate throughout the United States more than two decades ago.
“We’re going to make it as broad as possible for all of the key advocates that have been working on this for a long time, but at the same time we are going to be having some security measures to make sure that the event remains consistent with the celebratory mood of what the governor wants,” Blake Oshiro, deputy chief of staff for Abercrombie, told Hawaii News Now before the vote.
The AP reported: Hawai’i’s gay marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 Hawai’i Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry.
That helped lead Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, part of which was struck down earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.
For some residents, Wednesday’s signing was the perfect ending to a long and tedious fight.
The Seattle Lesbian received an email from one longtime supporter of the bill. A video from the signing was enclosed.
“Aloha! This is the gathering for the signing into Law SB1 HD1. Rep. Lee faced getting death threats. The Governor & his wife spoke to our hearts,” wrote Sandy Farmer-Wiley, an advocate for marriage equality in her home state of Hawai’i.
Even Abercrombie appeared moved at the weight of it all.
“In Hawai’i, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality,” Abercrombie said Tuesday after the state Senate passed the gay marriage bill. “Today, we celebrate our diversity defining us rather than dividing us.”
The AP reported that Rep. Bob McDermott, a House lawmaker who filed a lawsuit to derail the special session, promised a new challenge after Abercrombie signed the bill. A judge said he would take up the case only after the law was fully passed.
An estimate from a University of Hawai’i researcher says gay marriage will boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years, as Hawai’i becomes a destination for couples in other states, boosting ceremonies, receptions and honeymoons in the islands.
Watchdog.org reported that senators debated the bill for two hours Tuesday before voting 19-4 to pass the measure, as supporters and opponents packed the gallery and the Capitol rotunda.
Senators noted that never before in Hawai’i’s history had so many residents weighed in on an issue. Some 26,000 pieces of testimony were submitted, thousands of people rallied at the Capitol over the three-week special session and lawmakers heard testimony from more than 1,500 people in person.
Even with pro-gay marriage support, many were not thrilled with the passage, vowing to challenge the new law.
Visitors and residents of Hawai’i will be able to take part in the new marriage law as of December 2. Hawai’i has beaten Illinois to the punch by becoming the 15th state in the U.S. to recognize gay marriage. The District of Columbia also passed marriage equality. A bill is currently awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois. Once passed, Illinois will become the 16th state.