Hawaii Becomes Latest State To Legalize Gay Marriage
Legal gay marriages will be taking place in Hawaii in just a few weeks. Senators passed the bill with a 19-4 vote, with two lawmakers excused. Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the bill this morning in an invitation-only ceremony at the Hawaii Convention Center, meaning that tourists and gay couples living in Hawaii can start getting married in the state on Dec. 2.
Abercrombie said in a statement yesterday that he looks “forward to signing this significant piece of legislation, which provides marriage equity and fully recognizes an protects religious freedoms. President Barack Obama said in a statement yesterday that he “has always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder.”
Of course, there are also major financial benefits to legalizing same-sex marriage. Research from the University of Hawaii shows that gay marriage could bring $217 million worth of tourism into the state over the next three years, with couples spending $166 million on marriage ceremonies and honeymoons.
The bill was taken up by the Senate for a second time in offer to make minor amendments. The House amendments including slightly expanding an exemption for clergy and religious organizations, as well as removing regulations that determined how children of same-sex couples could qualify for Native Hawaiian benefits.
Hawaii is largely considered to be the birthplace of the gay marriage fight, when two women in the state applied for a marriage license in 1990. That led to the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which was struck down earlier this year by the Supreme Court.
An additional 14 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized same-sex marriage. A similar bill in Illinois is also awaiting their governor’s signature.