Hawaii becomes 15th U.S. state to legalize gay marriage
By Treena Shapiro
HONOLULU (Reuters) - Hawaii's governor signed into law on Wednesday a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, capping 20 years of legal and political rancor in a state regarded as a pioneer in advancing the cause of gay matrimony.
The new law, which takes effect on December 2, makes Hawaii the 15th U.S. state to legalize nuptials for gay and lesbian couples, rolling back a 1994 statute defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
"In Hawaii, we are all minorities, and we all deserve the same aloha," state Representative Chris Lee, a leading proponent of the measure, said before Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the bill.
Abercrombie said that despite misgivings by opponents who felt their religious beliefs were infringed, the measure served the "greater good" by more fully embracing gay and lesbian members of society, who had long felt marginalized.
"Now all those who have been invisible will be visible to themselves and the world," the governor said before sitting down at a table inside an auditorium of the Honolulu Convention Center near the city's beachfront Waikiki area to sign the bill, as supporters erupted in cheers.
The measure gained final approval from the Democrat-controlled state legislature on Tuesday, 15 days after the start of a special session called by Abercrombie, a first-term Democrat and former congressman, to consider the bill.
About a week before Hawaii lawmakers approved same-sex marriage, Illinois' General Assembly gave final approval to a gay marriage bill, but Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is not expected to sign that measure until later this month.
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