Same-sex marriage has been all but totally secured in the Aloha State. In a 30-19 vote late Friday night in Honolulu — Saturday morning on the mainland’s East coast — the Hawaii House passed marriage equality, becoming the 16th state in the nation to extend the institution to same-sex couples. All that remains is for the Hawaii Senate to approve the changes the House made to the legislation, and for Governor Neil Abercrombie to sign it — which he has promised to do. The bill, once signed, would go into effect December 2. Debate on the actual marriage bill Friday began after more than seven hours of debate on amendments attempting to derail the bill. In announcing his support for SB-1, the same-sex marriage bill, Democratic Rep. Tom Brower, a Christian, told his colleagues, “I urge Christians to be more concerned with the actions of people calling themselves ‘Christians’ than with gay people calling themselves ‘married.’” Rep. Nicole Lowen took a few minutes to officially correct those who made false statements in their testimony. She reminded the chamber that “gay is not a lifestyle,” and that HIV/AIDS is not caused by homosexuality, “it is a virus.” Rep. Chris Lee, who received a death threat last month over his support for marriage equality, also spoke eloquently in support of the bill. “It’s time we move forward,” Lee said, “once more.” He compared marriage equality to women’s suffrage, racial equality and to interracial marriage. “I choose to err on the side of fairness, on the side of freedom, on the side of aloha, on the side of love.” Rep. Kaniela Ing, who just two days ago delivered a heart-warming and heart-wrenching speech, explained how he came to embrace equality. Ing told the stories of Matthew Shepard, and of others, more recent, who have, or are struggling under inequality. He was close to tears at one point, and had to grab his speech off his desk for support. “How many more gay people must God create until we realize he wants them here?,” Ing asked repeatedly. But of course the bill was not supported unanimously. Rep. Jo Jordan, who on Wednesday became the first openly-gay elected official to vote against same-sex marriage, cemented that legacy Friday night when, in tears, she declared she had to vote against the final bill. Jordan decried those in the LGBT community who, she said, did not show her support, while she embraced members of the faith community who supported her and offered her love. And even the state house itself was physically divided, separating marriage equality supporters and marriage equality opponents. The path to equality is never easy, and this state’s battle was possibly one of the hardest fought of all those obtained through a state legislature. Opponents attempted a “people’s veto,” which extended testimony in the House alone into almost 60 hours, across five days, which followed a week of testimony and proceedings in the Senate. All told, the process itself, which ran for two weeks, was packed solid with hearings, debates, hopes, drama, lines, love, frustration, vitriol, amendments, presidential urgings, death threats, NOM testimony, verbal attacks, “mob rule” protests, heart-warming speeches, rallies, cheating scandals, “you would have to kill me” threats, prayer, Mormon Church interventions, charges of NOM violating election law, fake NOM ads, chanting, threats to “to shut this whole thing down,” a flashmob dance, and even, yes, finally, votes. While same-sex marriage protestors continued their week-long chants of “let the people vote!,” House Representatives in solidarity with the equality opponents made almost 30 attempts to scuttle the marriage bill. Those attempts, totaling 29 this week, were in the form of poison-pill amendments, attempts to extend religious “conscientious objector” status to any person in Hawaii who opposed same-sex marriage — effectively offering a license to discriminate on demand — and many other amendments crafted to both delay the vote and to “protect” those opposed. All 29 throughout the week, most of them on Friday, were voted down.
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