Nearly 50 same-sex couples married in Hawaii Monday, the day the state’s marriage equality law took effect.
The state Department of Health reported that by 3 p.m. Monday, it had received 179 online applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples, and 46 of the couples had married, according to Hawaii News Now, a service of TV stations KGMB and KHNL.
Six of the couples married just after midnight at the Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu; as the day went on, the total of same-sex couples married at the venue swelled to 37, notes Hawaii News Now.
There were no problems with the online system, and that led to less of a crowd applying in person at the state’s marriage license bureau. That was a relief to one of the couples applying there, Raymond Gouveia and Ron Root, who have been together 49 years. “The engagement was long enough,” Gouveia told Hawaii News Now. The two plan to marry at a beach house next week.
The day was gratifying not only to couples who could finally marry, but also to state officials who had witnessed the long journey to marriage equality in Hawaii. State registrar Alvin Onaka had denied three same-sex couples marriage licenses in 1990, leading to a lawsuit that brought marriage equality into the national conversation.
“It’s really historic that I’m able to say yes and not no,” Onaka told Hawaii News Now. “It’s a pleasure to tell the others now that Hawaii is allowing them to get married.”
Steven Levinson, who as a state Supreme Court justice had written a ruling in favor of marriage equality, said the day “feels like the validation of my entire professional life.” The now-retired justice was planning to officiate at least one couple’s marriage, according to Hawaii News Now.
Evan Wolfson, one of the lawyers who worked on the Hawaii case, gave an interview to The New Yorker, saying, “It’s especially sweet to bring the freedom to marry home after 20 years of work.”
The court case was rendered moot by a 1998 constitutional amendment allowing the state legislature to define marriage as an exclusively heterosexual union. Legislators changed that definition last month with their approval of the marriage equality bill, which was then signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
The first day of marriage equality in Hawaii was also marked by a proposal at the state capitol, with Travis Knott surprising partner D.J. Dole by proposing to him in the House chamber, where they were supposedly having a tour. “He said yes,” Knott told Hawaii News Now, and they then went to meet Abercrombie and thank him.
Watch a Hawaii News Now report on the historic day below.