Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Hawaii becomes the 16th state to approve marriage equality after the state Senate approved the House revised bill and sent it to the Governor for his signature. Hawaii Senate passes gay marriage bill:
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called lawmakers to a special session for the bill and has vocally supported gay marriage, has said he would sign the measure. It will allow thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2.
Senators passed the bill 19-4 with two lawmakers excused. Cheers erupted inside and outside the gallery when the vote was taken, with a smattering of boos. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who voted against the bill, banged her gavel and told members of the public to quiet down.
More than half the chamber’s lawmakers spoke in support of the bill, with many urging the public to come together to heal divisions within the community.
“This is nothing more than the expansion of aloha in Hawaii,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, a Democrat from Maui.
An estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says the law will boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years, as Hawaii becomes an outlet for couples in other states, bringing ceremonies, receptions and honeymoons to the islands. The study’s author has said Hawaii would benefit from pent-up demand for gay weddings, with couples spending $166 million over those three years on ceremonies and honeymoons.
The Senate took up the bill a second time because of changes made in the House, where the bill was amended and eventually passed.
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The House amendments delayed the dates ceremonies could begin, slightly expanded an exemption for clergy and religious organizations, and removed regulations determining how children of same-sex couples could qualify for Native Hawaiian benefits.
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The Senate vote puts Hawaii alongside Illinois, where a bill legalizing gay marriage is also awaiting the governor’s signature. Another 14 states and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser adds, SENATE PASSES GAY MARRIAGE BILL; SENDS IT TO GOVERNOR:
While the legislative action on the bill ends, opponents vow to continue the fight in court. On Thursday, Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto declined to issue a restraining order sought by state Rep. Bob McDermott to halt action on the special session's same-sex marriage legislation. But the judge said once the law is adopted, he'll consider its constitutionality.
McDermott (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) sent Abercrombie a letter on Friday stating that he would seek a temporary restraining order in Circuit Court to prevent the state from issuing marriage licences to gay couples.
McDermott contends that the 1998 constitutional amendment that gave the Legislature the power to define marriage as between heterosexual couples trumps any statutory change to the law. He insists that another vote by the people is necessary to redefine marriage.
Sakamoto on Thursday raised questions about how voters who ratified the 1998 amendment knew that it authorized the Legislature to later approve same-sex marriages.
In his statement today, Abercrombie said, "I believe this bill provides equal rights for all people, is legally sound, and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution."
If, as expected, Abercrombie signs the bill before Nov. 20, Hawaii will be the 15th state plus the District of Columbia to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The Illinois legislature passed a similar measure last week, but Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign a the bill into law at a ceremony in Chicago on Nov. 20.
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President Barack Obama issued a statement soon after the vote, saying, "I want to congratulate the Hawaii State Legislature on passing legislation in support of marriage equality."
"I've always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today's vote makes me even prouder. And Michelle and I extend our best wishes to all those in Hawaii whose families will now given the security and respect they deserve," he said.
Hawaii presently has an appeal pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which the state reportedly will seek to dismiss.