The Hawaii Senate [official website] on Tuesday passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage [text, PDF] by a vote of 19-4. The Hawaii House of Representatives [official website] approved the same-sex marriage bill [JURIST report] last week after adding amendments that allow religious organizations to withhold services if the same-sex marriage would be a violation of their beliefs. President Barack Obama praised Hawaii [statement] on Tuesday, saying that the same-sex marriage bill advances the American values of equality and liberty:
Whenever freedom and equality are affirmed, our country becomes stronger. By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation. I've always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today's vote makes me even prouder.Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie [official website] is expected to sign the bill into law on Wednesday.
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 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."