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Abercrombie signs historic marriage equity legislation into law

(Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office)

(Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office)

MEDIA RELEASE

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law Wednesday a bill that will legalize marriage for same-sex couples in the State of Hawaii. The governor signed Senate Bill 1 in a ceremony at the Hawaii Convention Center.

This new law recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex and extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive.

The new law takes effect on Dec. 2, 2013. Hawaii is now the 15th state in the nation to fully embrace marriage equity.

“The legalization of marriage for same-sex couples is part of the long history of civil rights movements in the United States,” Abercrombie said. “Many people have worked tireless to make this day possible. This significant piece of legislation is a clear example of people exercising courage, determination and patient perseverance. The result advances equity in marriage and honors all First Amendment religious imperatives.”

“We have moved into a new era of Aloha for same-sex couples, who can now share in the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Attorney General David Louie said.

“Although Hawaii was not the first to enact same-sex marriage, what shouldn’t be lost is Hawaii was the first in the Baehr v. Lewin lawsuit, that started the same-sex marriage discussion nationally,” said Sen. Clayton Hee, chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. “I am pleased today to be able to open a new chapter in our state’s history and to join the growing list of states in conferring to all Americans equal treatment under the law.”

Abercrombie has always been a strong advocate for equal rights. In 2011, the first bill he signed into law as governor legalized civil unions, making Hawaii the seventh state to grant such privileges to same-sex couples.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples who were married under state law. The court’s decision means that same-sex couples who are married in states where it is legal can take advantage of tax breaks, pension rights and other benefits available to married couples.

(Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office)

(Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office)

Senate sends governor measure to legalize same-sex marriage

In an historic vote, the Hawaii State Senate passed a measure on final reading Tuesday to legalize same-sex marriage in the State of Hawaii, accepting the House amendments to Senate Bill 1 (SB 1 HD 1), Relating to Equal Rights.

Passage of Senate Bill 1 marks a pivotal moment in our State’s history, a moment enshrined in equality and justice,” said Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, who introduced the bill. “Working together with our colleagues in the State House we have come to a compromise which provides a balance between religious freedom and equal rights.”

SB 1 HD1 recognizes marriages between individuals of the same gender. In addition, the measure extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage to which opposite-sex couples are presently entitled.

“I am pleased to have played a small part in this legislation which will bring equality, justice, and liberty for all regarding all Americans,” said Sen. Clayton Hee, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor.

Incorporating public input and changes proposed by the House, the measure takes into account the concerns expressed by both the religious community and same-sex advocates. Specifically, language regarding religious exemptions for religious organizations and clergy performing solemnization has been amended to closely model similar provisions currently in effect in the State of Connecticut.

Under SB 1 HD1, religious organizations and affiliated nonprofits would be exempt from having to provide goods, services, or its facilities or grounds for the solemnization or the celebration of solemnization if it is in violation of its religious beliefs or faith.

It also specifies that clergy and religious officers are not required to solemnize if it is against their religious beliefs or faith.

In addition, the measure grants immunity from administrative, civil, and legal liability to religious organizations and officials for the failure or refusal to provide services, good, or facilities as described.

Language has also been included that conforms the above exemptions to the existing civil union statute.

Governor’s statement on Legislature passing bill

The Hawaii State Senate overwhelmingly voted today to pass SB1 HD1 relating to equal rights.

Abercrombie stated:

“In Hawaii, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality. We embrace the Aloha spirit and respect one another. Today, we celebrate our diversity defining us rather than dividing us.

“I believe this bill provides equal rights for all people, is legally sound, and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution.

“I look forward to signing this significant piece of legislation, which provides marriage equity and fully recognizes and protects religious freedoms.”

Schatz celebrates marriage equality becoming law

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz released the following statement celebrating Abercrombie signing SB1, which ensures marriage equality for all individuals in the State of Hawaii, into law.

“Today we achieved a long-fought victory for civil rights in Hawaii,” Schatz said. “I congratulate those who have dedicated years, and even decades, to seeing marriage equality become a reality. This is a historic and celebratory day for many Hawaii families, who will now be treated equally under the law, regardless of who they love.”

Linda Schatz testified before the Hawaii legislature on behalf of her husband Senator Schatz in support of marriage equality during the legislature’s consideration of SB1.

In March, Senator Schatz signed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred same-sex marriage. Following signing on, he released a statement: “Denying committed couples the right to marry is unacceptable. It is my hope that the arguments heard in the Supreme Court will further prove what millions of Americans know is just—marriage equality must be a constitutional right for all Americans.”

On Capitol Hill Wednesday, Schatz participated in the No H8 Campaign, the nation’s leading advocacy group committed to achieving marriage equality.

The No H8 Campaign was founded in an effort to defeat Proposition 8, the law banning same-sex marriage in California that was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.

(Photo courtesy of Sen. Schatz Office)

(Photo courtesy of Sen. Schatz Office)

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