The race to become the 15th state with marriage equality between Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico seems to have the Aloha State in the lead right now. Thanks to a special legislative session which started on Monday, the Hawaii state Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill to enact marriage equality by a vote of 20 to 4. The bill now goes to the state House, where passage is expected, according to The Advocate.
The House, where the vote is likely to be closer, may try to put more religious exemptions into the measure. It currently exempts clergy members who oppose same-sex marriage from having to perform such unions, but it does not allow for-profit businesses to refuse, on religious grounds, to provide wedding-related services to gay couples. An amended bill would have to go back to the Senate for another vote.An interesting historical footnote here is that Hawaii was the site of the beginning of the modern movement to legalize marriage equality when the state Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1993 that it believed denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples was sex discrimination requiring the government to provide a compelling state interest to justify it. Within 3 years the Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in a hysterical response to the possibility that Hawaii would legalize same-sex marriage and the rest of the country would be "forced" to recognize these marriages. In 1998, Hawaii voters enacted a constitutional amendment giving power to the legislature to ban same-sex marriage. Because that measure did not explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman, the Legislature also has the power now to enact marriage equality.
It's amazing to think that 20 years later Hawaii could (finally) end marriage discrimination, just as the Hawaii Supreme Court predicted.
Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress