Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie today signed the state’s marriage equality bill into law, meaning same-sex couples can begin marrying December 2.
Abercrombie preceded the signing with remarks about a lesbian friend, who he said told him, “I have spent my entire life waiting for equality,” and had also discussed her feelings of invisibility.
“Today, now, all whose who have been invisible will be visible to themselves and the whole world,” Abercrombie told those gathered at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honululu. Other public officials and entertainers also appeared at the ceremony.
The state Senate yesterday passed the latest version of the bill, which had been amended and approved by the state House of Representatives last week. It goes into effect December 2. Couples in civil unions, which Hawaii has offered since 2011, will be able to convert them to marriages through an online form.
House member Bob McDermott, a Republican, has already filed a lawsuit challenging marriage equality. He contends that in voting on a 1998 state constitutional amendment, voters thought they were reserving marriage for opposite-sex couples, although actually the amendment gave the legislature the authority to define marriage in that fashion, which it then did. With the new law, legislators have changed that definition.
The legislature’s 1998 vote rendered moot a lawsuit that had been making its way through the Hawaii courts throughout the decade. State Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson wrote the 1993 ruling that denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples violated the Hawaii constitution and said that if the state could not demonstrate a compelling reason for this denial, the rights must be extended. Further court hearings ensued as the state tried to show this reason, but the process ended with the 1998 amendment. Abercrombie today recognized Levinson’s historic role in advancing marriage equality by saying he would give Levinson the first pen used in signing the law.
Watch video of the ceremony below, and farther down, a video of a celebration yesterday.