The Hawaii Senate has passed a marriage equality bill. The vote was 20-4.
The debate lasted more than an hour in the Senate, where many spoke about equality, love and some observed that the contemporary push for marriage equality largely originated in Hawaii in the early 1990s with a landmark lawsuit.
Before the vote, the White House issued a statement. "While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, said in an email. "As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. The president would welcome a decision by the state Legislature to treat all Hawaiian couples equally." The president was born in Hawaii in 1961, completed his undergraduate degree there and takes family vacations in the state.
The focus now is on the House, where a joint committee hearing was scheduled this week.
A statement from Hawaii United for Marriage, released just after midnight on Oct. 31, said, "The momentum for the freedom to marry is real -- and today’s historic vote count proves it. The people of Hawaii, our lawmakers included, know that marriage equality is the right thing to do."
But the coalition of equality advocates added that the big challenge is on the House floor.
"We can’t stop pushing until marriage equality passes on the House floor and all 'ohana are guaranteed equal treatment under the law," the statement read.
Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie called a special session for lawmakers to take up a marriage equality bill, which if passed could allow for same-sex couples to begin marrying in the state this month.
Editor's note: This story will be updated.