Marriage Equality Bill passes: Despite strong opposition legislators vote for bill, governor signs it

Written by: 
Rebecca Sabalones~Multimedia Journalist

The Marriage Equality Act of 2013 legalizing same-sex marriage was signed into law on March 13 by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie after it was approved by the House and Senate despite strong opposition local citizens displayed for the past two weeks.

According to the Associated Press, Senators passed the bill on Nov. 12 for a second time because changes were made in the House increasing protections for religious groups and people. The House amended and passed the bill after a five-day public hearing and two lengthy floor sessions.

Hundreds of people gathered at the legislation building to rally in opposition to the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 since Monday, Oct. 28. The streets were lined with people holding signs. Cars were honking and people were chanting, testifying, and signing petitions to show the Hawaiian House and Senate their disapproval of the Bill 1 (SB1) and wanted the issue to be voted on by the population.

Rep. Bob McDermott, a House lawmaker opposed to the bill, promised to challenge it in court after Abercrombie signs the bill, reports AP.

In 1998, voters in Hawaii passed an amendment to the state’s constitution by 70 percent to keep marriage defined as between a man and a woman. Opponents to the bill say they will challenge it in court because it disregards the 1998 amendment. They asked legislators to “let the people decide” by voting again on the issue.

Rosalie Vaka, a senior in political science from Tonga, recently became a legal resident of Hawaii and wanted to show her support in the rally against the bill. “Coming here shows my support against the bill and allows me to unite with everyone with a strong statement to the people who are watching through the media and even those who are there in the hearing right now. I think that it's important to stand up for what I believe in and actually be here and not just sitting passively letting it go by.”

According to the act, the bill was designed to “recognize marriages between individuals of the same sex in the State of Hawaii.” Hawaii legislators have been battling the topic since the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until after a U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 that lawmakers decided to reintroduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Among legislators the trend had been in favor of the bill.

The bill makes it possible for same-sex couples to have the same legal “rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities” as couples in a heterosexual marriage, and be able to carry the same title of marriage, making legal terms, such as “husband, wife, widow,” and “widower” gender neutral. Under the state’s previous civil unions law, same-sex couples receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples on the state level but not on a federal level.

The law allows gay couples living in Hawaii and tourists to marry in the state starting on Dec. 2. Another 14 states and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage.

The bill also seeks to reduce discrimination against same-sex couples by accommodating them in business transactions. Any “place of public accommodation” that is defined under Hawaii Revised Statute section 489-2 (hotels, restaurants, retail services, etc.) is required by the Marriage Equality Act to not discriminate against same-sex couples.

The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have spoken out against the bill by sending a letter to members saying, “Traditional marriage and religious liberty are among the most cherished and historically vital elements of society, and both deserve careful protection.”

While the LDS Church has always made a stand against same-sex marriage, it has also made a stand to “love one another.” In the church’s “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” it says, “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

According to mormonsandgays.org, “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”