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Same-sex marriage law passed in Hawaii

Hawaii, the state where a court ruling twenty years ago set off the movement to open marriage to same-sex couples, is now poised to make that a legal reality: the state legislature on Tuesday completed passage of a marriage bill, and Governor Neil Abercrombie is scheduled to sign it into law on Wednesday.

Because a decision last week by the Illinois legislature to permit gays and lesbians to marry there has not yet been signed into law, Hawaii will become the fifteenth state to make such marriages legal.  Illinois’s governor has announced that he will sign that state’s measure in a ceremony on November 20, making that state the sixteenth.

Hawaii has a special place in the history of same-sex marriage because its state supreme court, in May 1993, became the first court in the country to rule that a guarantee of legal equality could pave the way for such marriages.  That ruling never became final and was in effect overruled when Hawaii’s voters in 1998 amended the state constitution to retain marriage only for opposite-sex couples.

One effect of that 1993 state court ruling, and the political impact it had across the country, was Congress’s passage in 1996 of the Defense of Marriage Act, spelling out that marriage — for all purposes under federal law and programs — meant only the union of a man and a woman.  That provision was struck down last June by the Supreme Court.

The first court in the nation to issue a final decision clearing the way for same-sex marriage was the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in 2003.   Since then, four other state courts have ruled in essentially the same way, and voters in three states have approved measures to permit such marriages.   With the votes in Hawaii and Illinois, eight state legislatures have now adopted such bills.  The local legislature in Washington, D.C., also has passed such a bill.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Same-sex marriage law passed in Hawaii, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 12, 2013, 10:29 PM),