Hawaiʻi Becomes 15th State to Legalize Same Sex Marriage

November 13, 2013, 11:59 AM HST · Updated November 14, 7:49 AM
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A group of supporters celebrated the Senate passage of SB1 HD1 on Maui during a sign waving demonstration along Kaʻahumanu Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Wendy Osher.

A group of supporters celebrated the Senate passage of SB1 HD1 on Maui during a sign waving demonstration along Kaʻahumanu Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

At 10:51 a.m. HST, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, Hawaiʻi became the 15th state to legally recognize same-sex marriage, as Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the bill into law before an invited crowd at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center.

Upon signing the measure, the governor said a single word, “Done,” which was followed by a  spontaneous rendition of Hawaiʻi Aloha from those in attendance.

SB1, HD1, which now becomes the Hawaiʻi Marriage Equality Act of 2013, makes it legal for gay couples to wed in the state for the first time on Dec. 2, 2013.

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The ceremony included an oli (chant) by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a same-sex marriage advocate who had provided editorial comment during the special session, including an opinion piece in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on how Hawaiian values differ from Western traditions.

The bill signing ceremony also featured, a live reunion performance by Amy Hānaiali‘i and Willie K, who collaborated on a rendition of “Imagine” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

The signing comes after a series of approvals during a special session that began on Oct. 28, 2013, and concluded with final passage in the Senate on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

During the session, opponents said the bill was “rushed through,” and that a task force should have been formed to study the impacts of the legislation. Throughout the session, opponents could be heard chanting to “Let the people vote,” while others in opposition cited support for traditional marriage.

In a statement released following the passage of the bill, Governor Neil Abercrombie said, “The legalization of marriage for same-sex couples is part of the long history of civil rights movements in the United States. Many people have worked tireless to make this day possible. This significant piece of legislation is a clear example of people exercising courage, determination and patient perseverance. The result advances equity in marriage and honors all First Amendment religious imperatives.”

Attorney Genera David Louie, who served as the master of ceremonies for the bill signing event said, “We have moved into a new era of Aloha for same-sex couples, who can now share in the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Senator Clayton Hee, the chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary also offered comments in a press release statement saying, “Although Hawaiʻi was not the first to enact same-sex marriage, what shouldn’t be lost is Hawaiʻi was the first in the Baehr v. Lewin lawsuit, that started the same-sex marriage discussion nationally. I am pleased today to be able to open a new chapter in our state’s history and to join the growing list of states in conferring to all Americans equal treatment under the law.”

US Senator Brian Schatz was among those who responded to today’s bill signing with a statement in support saying, “Today we achieved a long-fought victory for civil rights in Hawai‘i. I congratulate those who have dedicated years, and even decades, to seeing marriage equality become a reality. This is a historic and celebratory day for many Hawai‘i families, who will now be treated equally under the law, regardless of who they love.”

In March, Senator Schatz signed an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court urging the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act that barred same-sex marriage, in which he said, “Denying committed couples the right to marry is unacceptable.”

On Capitol Hill today, Senator Schatz was among those who participated in a No H8 Campaign, which was launched by a national advocacy group committed to achieving marriage equality.

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