The Hawaii Senate on Tuesday gave its
final approval to a gay marriage bill, sending it to Democratic
Governor Neil Abercrombie, who has said he will sign the bill as
amended in the House.
Abercrombie could sign the bill as
early as Wednesday, according to local reports.
Senators approved the marriage bill
with 19-4 vote with two members excused.
Senator Clayton Hee, chair of the
Senate's judiciary committee and the bill's champion in the Senate,
urged colleagues to back the measure.
“We are here today to enact
legislation centered around the values of citizenship, value and
courage,” Hee said on the Senate floor.
Hee ended his remarks by reading a
letter from Edith Windsor, the lesbian who challenged the
constitutionality of a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
and won. Windsor's case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court's June ruling led to the federal government's recognition
of the legal marriages of gay couples.
Windsor thanked Hee “from the bottom
of my heart” for his support of marriage equality. “[D]o
whatever it takes to get the bill passed, even a law with religious
exemptions,” Windsor wrote.
Abercrombie, who signed a civil unions
bill in 2011, also pointed to the ruling in calling for the special
session. He noted that gay couples in a civil union cannot access a
broad range of federal benefits, unlike married couples.
The chamber's lone Republican, Minority
Leader Sam Slom, likened the marriage bill to the Affordable Care
Act, widely known as Obamacare, saying that details would be
discovered after its approval.
“You can't legislate morality,”
Slom told colleagues.
Democratic Senator Mike Gabbard
reiterated a common argument of opponents, that the legislation was
The Legislature needs to “slow down,
pause, realize how important this issue is to the people and take
time to deliberate,” Gabbard said on the Senate floor.
Opponents who had taken over the
capitol rotunda as the bill moved through the House largely ignored
Tuesday's session, with supporters – who waved rainbow flags –
Hawaii joins Illinois in being a
signature away from legalizing gay nuptials.