Hawaii, the Islands of Aloha, became the most recent state in the nation to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Late Friday night, after a 12-hour session, Hawaii’s House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Because the house version is amended, the State Senate will review it this week. That chamber already passed the original bill, but they need to vote again on the house version. Depending on when the approved bill is signed by the governor, Hawaii will be the 15th or 16th state to pass marriage equality legislation.
Just three days after Illinois lawmakers approved marriage equality, Hawaii did the same, in a growing surge of legislative activity and litigation nationwide. There has been increased momentum for marriage equality since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Two decades ago, Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled that outlawing same-sex marriage was discriminatory, a decision that helped advance LGBT rights across the nation. Unfortunately, it also ignited a conservative backlash. In 1994 Hawaii enacted a law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In 1998 Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment granting the state legislature the power to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.
Last month, with Section 3 of DOMA struck down and public opinion shifting, Governor Neil Abercrombie called the state legislature into a special session to consider a bill that would bring marriage equality to Hawaii, once and for all.
The governor has affirmed that he will quickly sign the senate-approved bill, which will take effect on December 2.