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With House OK, Hawaii Poised To Legalize Gay Marriage

Proponents of gay marriage rally outside House chambers at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu on Friday.
Oskar Garcia
Proponents of gay marriage rally outside House chambers at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu on Friday.

Hawaii is poised to join 14 other states that have approved same-sex marriage.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has indicated he will sign the bill, which was just approved by the House. If you remember, the Illinois state legislature took the same move last week. So depending on when the bills are signed into law, Hawaii will become either the 15th or 16th state to allow same-sex marriage.

The New York Times reports that this is an especially important symbolic victory for gay rights activists, because the first legal challenge demanding equal treatment emerged from the state.

The Times explains:

"Such marriages existed nowhere when Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel, along with two other couples, filed what seemed like an utterly quixotic lawsuit seeking a marriage license. To near universal shock, Hawaii's Supreme Court granted them a victory in 1993, ruling that a refusal to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry was discriminatory and illegal.

"It was the first judicial expression of an idea that soon caught fire across the country and the world.

"The ruling prompted a national backlash, with Congress barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage and dozens of states amending their constitutions to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and it was even overruled by Hawaii's voters. But it also opened a huge new front for the gay rights movement, laying the groundwork for scores of legal and political battles ever since."

NBC News reports that the debate in the Hawaii House was intense, especially because for the first time ever, the House allowed the public to speak during the debate. More than 1,000 people spoke. Some against gay marriage argued this should be settled through a ballot measure, while some in favor of gay marriage argued that this is a civil rights issue that should be addressed by the legislature.

Once the House passed the bill by a 30 to 19 margin, proponents and opponents were emotional.

"On Friday, hundreds of gleeful advocates of same-sex marriage waved rainbow flags at the Capitol while hundreds of opponents shouted, 'Let the people decide' and sang 'God Bless America,'" the Times reports.

The AP reports that now the bill has to be re-approved by the Senate, because the House made changes.

"I look forward to a successful conclusion to this major step in affirming everyone's civil rights," said Gov. Abercrombie.

The AP reports if finally approved, same-sex marriages in Hawaii would begin Dec. 2.

Correction on Tuesday Nov. 12:An earlier version of this post said the Hawaii state House passed this measure by a 20-4 vote. That was actually the margin by which the Senate passed the measure. The House passed the measure with a 30-10 vote.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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