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Governor signs Hawaii marriage equality bill into law

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, at about 3:50 p.m. EST today (Nov. 13), signed Hawaii's marriage equality bill into law. Same-sex couples can begin marrying in the Aloha state on Dec. 2, some 23 years after the contemporary push for marriage equality began there.

The signing ceremony took place the day after the state Senate gave its final OK to an amended bill passed by the House on Nov. 8.

There have been threats from the far right of a lawsuit, but Hawaii Attorney General David Louie has said the measure is constitutionally sound.

Hawaii is the third state in just two months — and the sixth state this year — to legalize same-sex marriage. Illinois lawmakers finalized legislation earlier this month that needs only the signature of the Democratic governor. And in October, same-sex couples began marrying in New Jersey.

But the modern push for marriage equality began in Hawaii in the early 1990s, with a landmark lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses and were denied.

Hawaii was close to fully recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry when voters enacted a constitutional amendment authorizing state lawmakers to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

"One of the early milestones in the freedom to marry movement was the lawsuit filed in Hawaii 23 years ago in 1991," said Marriage Equality USA legal and policy director John Lewis. "The people of Hawaii never gave up, and their long road to equality will make the wedding bells ring a bit louder and the wedding cake taste that much sweeter when the first marriages begin in Hawaii."

At the signing ceremony, Abercrombie compared passage of the marriage equality bill to passage of Title 9 more than two decades ago. That legislation brought profound change for girls and women in the United States. The marriage bill, the governor said, also will bring profound change.

He reflected in his speech on the meaning of "aloha," so much a part of the day-to-day life in Hawaii, and also written into the state Constitution. The long process of legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, the governor said, is about aloha — about kindness and compassion, unity, humility and modesty, patience and perseverance. 

Immediately after signing the bill, the governor said, "Done" and stood to celebrate with those attending the celebration.

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