Hawaii’s House of Representatives has passed a third reading of a same-sex marriage bill. If passed in the Senate next week, the state will become the 15th (or the 16th if the governor of Illinois signs their law first) in the US to legalize gay marriage.
‘I commend the House of Representatives for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward,’ said state governor Neil Abercrombie, confirming his support for the bill. ‘I look forward to a successful conclusion to this major step in affirming everyone’s civil rights.’
The bill, SB 1, was passed by 30 votes to 19 after 55 hours of debate and public testimony. Opponents of tried to obstruct the legislation with procedural delays, as supporters chanted from the public gallery.
The draft that was passed gives more protection to clergy and religious institutions who refuse to serve same-sex couples.
Republicans said not putting the issue to a referendum was undemocratic despite polls showing a majority of Hawaiians supporting it.
A group of Democrats voted against the bill because either they opposed same-sex marriage, believed their constituents opposed it, or believed the protections for religious groups in the bill had the potential to be challenged in court.
Democrat member of the House of Representatives Kaniela Ing, who supported the bill, tweeted ‘Time to celebrate and rest’.
The legal battle for same-sex marriage in Hawaii has been fought since the 1990s. The Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that denying gay couples marriage was discriminatory, but then a conservative backlash banned same-sex marriage again in further rulings in 1996 and 1999.
If the bill passes in the Senate, gay couples will be able to legal marry on the beaches of Hawaii as soon as next month.