Just now, by a vote of 30-19, the Hawaii House of Representatives approved a bill granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry in the Aloha State.
The state Senate approved the bill last week but will have to pass it once more because of amendments that were added in the House. The Senate vote was so lopsided in favor of equality, though (20-4), that it's essentially a formality. That vote is scheduled for Tuesday, November 12.
The measure will then go to pro-equality Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie, who has promised to sign it into law.
Marriages will begin on December 2.
The Hawaii marriage victory is especially sweet because it comes over the hysterical objections of the state's conservative Christians. Anti-LGBT churches desperately packed hearings with opponents of the bill, cheating the system by encouraging people to testify in their own name and then again on others' behalf. According to the Hawaii Christian Coalition, the explicitly-stated goal was to "waste time" in order to grind the legislature to a halt and stall the bill for as long as possible.
It is additionally significant because of the outsized role Hawaii has played in the national marriage equality debate. The AP reports:
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled it was discriminatory to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples.
But rather than pave the way for a gay marriage law, the ruling prompted a conservative backlash. In 1998, Hawaiian voters approved a state constitutional amendment that limited the right to marry to heterosexual couples.
The tide has begun to turn under Abercrombie, who was elected in 2010. He signed a same-sex civil unions bill into law in 2011 and has been a vocal proponent of gay marriage since then.
"To win now through the political process in Hawaii would show just how far public opinion in our nation has evolved, and how quickly," said Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, which promotes gay civil rights. "It would demonstrate that ... allowing same-sex couples the same right to marry that different-sex couples cherish only provides greater joy and security to more families, and harms no one."
Indeed, until election day last year only six states allowed the freedom to marry. When the formalities finish in Hawaii there will be 16, plus the District of Columbia. At that time, the list of freedom-to-marry jurisdictions in the U.S. will look like this:
- Massachusetts (2004)
- California (2008, 2013)
- Connecticut (2008)
- Iowa (2009)
- Vermont (2009)
- New Hampshire (2009)
- Washington, D.C. (2009)
- New York (2011)
- Washington (2012)
- Maryland (2012)
- Maine (2012)
- Rhode Island (2013)
- Delaware (2013)
- Minnesota (2013)
- New Jersey (2013)
- Illinois (2013)
- Hawaii (2013)
Incidentally, Hawaii and Illinois -- the two newest additions to the list -- are the two U.S. states most closely associated with pro-equality President Barack Obama. Cool, huh?