Gay marriage clears another statehouse hurdle in Hawaii

Sat Nov 9, 2013 5:29am EST
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By Treena Shapiro

HONOLULU (Reuters) - Hawaii's House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday to legalize same-sex marriage in the overwhelmingly Democratic state popular as a wedding and honeymoon destination, paving the way for anticipated final passage in the Senate next week.

The measure cleared the House in a late-night vote of 30-19, with six of the chamber's seven Republicans joining 13 Democrats in opposing the legislation. Two Democrats were absent for the vote.

Governor Neil Abercrombie has indicated he would swiftly sign the measure into law, making Hawaii the 15th or 16th U.S. state to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, depending on when the governor of Illinois signs that state's bill.

As currently drafted, the Hawaii bill would take effect on December 2.

"This is about a move toward acceptance, tolerance and compassion," Representative Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, said as the House floor debate began hours before the vote.

The vote in Hawaii comes at a time of increasing momentum for gay marriage in the courts, at the ballot box and statehouses across the country.

Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled two decades ago that banning same-sex marriage was discriminatory, helping to advance gay rights nationwide but also sparking a backlash that kept the legislature passing a bill on the issue.

With public opinion shifting, Abercrombie, a first-term Democrat, called the state legislature into special session late last month to consider a bill that rolls back a 1994 statute defining marriage as between a man and a woman only.   Continued...

Same sex marriage supporters Lance Namihara (L), Calvin Marquez (C) and Aleeciya Parker rally at the Hawaii State Capital as the State Legislature convenes for the third and final vote on allowing same sex marriage to be legal in the state of Hawaii in Honolulu, November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry