All eyes are on the Aloha State this week, as Hawaii stands on the threshold of making civil rights history. State legislators will begin to consider the marriage equality issue today. Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie has called a special session to debate a bill that would allow same-sex marriages.
Abercrombie told Reuters in a telephone interview, “This is a question of equity.”
Yesterday afternoon, Equality Hawaii and dozens of other LGBT grassroots organizations held a support rally and community gathering on the grounds of the state capitol. Dubbed “Love Makes a Family,” the event featured a brown bag picnic, special musical guests, speakers, voter registration and tools for legislative outreach.
This morning, the LGBT advocacy group Hawaii United for Marriage will hold a Marriage Equality Lobby Day, beginning with a briefing from pro-equality lawmakers and ending with a demonstration at the state capitol building.
Hawaii now recognizes civil unions and reciprocal beneficiary relationships for same-sex couples. After the previous governor vetoed a 2009 civil union bill, Abercrombie signed one into law last year. At the state level, civil unions afford the same rights as marriage, but gay marriage is banned by state law. Hawaii does not recognize legal, out-of-state gay marriages; instead, they are considered civil unions in that state.
If there are enough votes in the state legislature in favor of marriage equality, Hawaii could become the nation’s 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.