When Hawaii's House of Representatives passed a same-sex marriage bill late Friday, the state joined a wave of activity — mainly of lawsuits and legislation — that has been rapidly growing since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act in June.
After a 12-hour marathon session, the Hawaii House passed SB1 with a 30-19 vote just after 10 p.m. Friday. The action came just three days after lawmakers approved same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois.
When the vote was tallied at the Capitol in Honolulu, hundreds of people crammed into the Capitol rotunda, many wearing rainbow-colored leis, and cheered, danced and waved giant rainbow flags. A chant of "Love is love," broke out.
Opponents were on hand, as well, and they asked that the state consider a 1998 state constitutional amendment that prohibits the Legislature from allowing same-sex marriage.
The Hawaii Senate, which passed a similar marriage bill 20-4 late last month, will likely pick up the measure again Tuesday and then send it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk.
Abercrombie has said multiple times that he will sign the bill.
"After more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments, and deliberating procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equity for same-sex couples and protects our First Amendment freedoms for religious organizations," Abercrombie said in a statement Friday.
On Oct. 28, Abercrombie required by proclamation that both houses of the Legislature meet to consider same-sex marriage legislation. The House debated nearly 30 amendments, most of which concerned broadening religious exemptions in the law. Hawaii already allows civil unions for same-sex couples.
Twenty years ago, Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled that not allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry was discriminatory and illegal — a ruling generally regarded as the official start of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage.
If Hawaii legalizes gay marriage, couples could marry as soon as Dec. 2.
With the addition of Hawaii and Illinois, gay marriage would be legal in 16 states, plus the District of Columbia. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the measure passed there Tuesday.