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Hawaii: Gay marriage bill passes, awaits governor’s signature

Marriages can begin as early as Dec 2

Hawaii's legislature has green-lighted gay marriage, with the bill now headed to the governor for his signature. Credit: ezilon.com

By a vote of 19 to four, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage made it through the last hurdle in Hawaii's legislature, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

Governor Neil Abercrombie is reportedly eager to sign the measure into law, with the first ceremonies set to start Dec 2. Abercrombie will reportedly sign the bill Nov 13.

The Nov 12 Senate vote brings down the curtain on a long, hard-fought battle to legalize gay marriage in the state, where in the 1990s, Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel, along with two other same-sex couples, applied for marriage licences but were rejected by the state's health department.
 
AP notes that the couples' case led to the passage of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a key provision of which the US Supreme Court struck down in June, ruling that legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. 
 
Baehr and Dancel are no longer together, and both have new partners, but they see each other when Baehr, who now lives in Montana, visits Hawaii, Hawaii News Now reports
 
The report quotes Dancel as saying that she is "saddened that Hawaii gave up the opportunity to be the first" and that she just wants to "get married in my home state." 
 
More than 20 years after the pioneering couples initiated their battle, the debate in the legislature proved to be a testy exercise, featuring an almost week-long hearing that eventually saw the legislation approved by a vote of 30 to 19. The bill that went to the Senate bore exemptions for clergy and religious organizations that hold that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
 
In a move that surprised many, lesbian Representative Jo Jordan registered her opposition to the bill during the final reading, saying that while three-quarters of her constituents have told her they support gay marriage, she was not convinced that everyone felt they had been able to participate in the debate, Hawaii News Now reports.