Gay couples across Hawaii began
exchanging vows early Monday as a gay marriage law took effect in the
state at midnight.
Couples began marrying soon after 12:01
Six couples married during a midnight
ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu, including three
of the couples who first legalized their relationships in civil
unions in 2012.
“It's just exciting and historic and
we wanted to be a part of it,” Maria Gallo, who married her partner
Beth Creary, told the AP. “This is like a confirmation with a
group of people here who are sharing our joy.”
The law caps off a decades-long
struggle for marriage rights that started in the early 90s.
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled
it discriminatory to withhold marriage from gay couples but did not
impose a remedy. Instead, lawmakers approved a law banning same-sex
marriage after voters put in place a constitutional amendment that
gave legislators the right to decide the issue.
The landmark opinion is credited with
fueling the nationwide movement for marriage equality and prompting
Congress to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. The portion of
the law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing the
legal marriages of gay couples was struck down in June by the U.S.
Federal marriage recognition was among
the reasons Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie cited in calling a
special session last month to consider the marriage law.
Couples wishing to marry in Hawaii were
able to begin the process online at 12:01 AM.
According to one estimate, the law will
provide the Hawaii economy with a $217 million boost over the next
“Same sex couples will be attracted
to Hawaii for the same reasons that opposite sex couples are
attracted to Hawaii,” Summer Lacroix, an economist at the
University of Hawaii, told
NPR. “It's the great weather. It's the warm water. It's the
beautiful scenery. And it's also the aloha spirit.”
A recently-approved marriage law in
Illinois takes effect in June.