Hawaii's governor Neil Abercrombie put a special legislative session on the schedule for next month in order to pass a bill that would legalize gay marriage. If the bill passes, Hawaii would become the 14th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriages. The state already allows civil unions.
Like a handful of other states, Hawaii saw a new push to legalize same-sex marriages after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage act in June. The bill on the table specifically frames itself in the context of that decision, arguing that the availability to federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples has applied some urgency to the issue:
This legislature has already extended to same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions that provide the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under state law as afforded to opposite-sex couples who marry. However, these civil unions are not recognized by federal law and will not receive equal treatment to a marriage under federal law. Therefore, it is the intent of the legislature to ensure that same-sex couples are able to take full advantage of federal benefits and protections granted to married opposite-sex couples by allowing same-sex couples to marry under the laws of this State. It is the intent of the legislature that marriages solemnized in accordance with this Act be equal in all respects to the marriages of opposite-sex couples under the laws of this State.
And now, Abercrombie would like that bill, proposed last month, to get a vote before the end of the calendar year — he asked lawmakers to "focus squarely" on the same-sex marriage measure during the session, before the regular session begins in January. While passage isn't a sure thing, the bill would allow same-sex marriages to begin in the state as early as November.
Earlier this month, one count of potential House votes tallied 27 "yes" and 15 "no" votes out of the 51-person body (the rest were undecided). The bill would need 26 votes to pass. Senate Democrats believe they have enough votes to pass the bill, too, after a couple weeks of committee meetings.