The Hawaii House of Representatives [JURIST report] voted 30-19 [legislative materials] Friday to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage [text, PDF]. A point of contention during the committee hearing was the introduction of religious exemptions to the bill, allowing religious organizations to withhold services if the same-sex marriage would be a violation of thei beliefs. Governor Neil Abercrombie [official website], who called for a special convening of the state legislature specifically to consider legislation for same-sex marriage by proclamation [text, PDF] in September, has stated that he would sign the measure into law [Reuters report]. Before the governor may consider the bill, however, it must return to the Senate for approval of the amendments made in the House.
The legalization of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has proven to be divisive issue in Hawaii. Last week, a Hawaiian judge denied a request [JURIST report] for a temporary restraining order against lawmakers to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Last month the Hawaii Senate [official website] approved a measure [JURIST report] to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Abercrombie signed [JURIST report] the same-sex civil unions bill into law in 2011, legalizing same-sex civil unions in the state. This legislation went into effect in January 2012 after being approved by the state's senate in an 18-5 vote. A similar bill was vetoed [JURIST report] in 2010 by former governor Linda Lingle, who cited concerns that the bill was "essentially marriage by another name" and said that the issue should be decided directly by the people of Hawaii. Following the signing of the same-sex civil unions bill in 2011, a lesbian couple filed suit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Hawaii [official website], challenging the state's denial of same-sex marriage and claiming that they were being denied a "fundamental right." Although the court denied [JURIST report] the state law challenge in 2012, Abercrombie supported the plaintiffs' claims, publicly stating that he disagreed with the decision and that "[t]o refuse individuals the right to marry on the basis of sexual orientation or gender is discrimination in light of our civil union law."