Hawaii will convene a special legislative session that could make the state the 14th in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.
“The decision to call a special session is based on doing what is right to create equity for all in Hawaii,” Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement released Monday. “The merits of holding a special session include the opportunity for the legislature to focus squarely on this important issue, without having to divert attention to the hundreds of other bills introduced during a regular session.”
Both Hawaii’s House and Senate are ruled by Democratic legislators, but that doesn’t mean the Republican voices in the chambers will be silenced. Rep. Gene Ward, one of the seven Republican State House members, told HawaiiNewsNow that Hawaiians are not ready for the law. “I think the people out there really are not totally for this. I think it’s an exception that we have a special session for what now is for a very select, very narrow reason. There’s not a state or a federal guarantee to same-sex marriage, so why are we rushing?”
Hawaii amended its constitution in 1998 to ban same-sex marriage, but later legalized civil unions in 2011. A recent study from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization revealed that legalizing same-sex marriage could “increase tourism revenue by $217 million over two years as gay couples and their loved ones travel to the islands to perform wedding ceremonies.”
The special session will begin Oct. 28 and is expected to last no longer than one week. If the law is passed, marriage licenses could be issued as early as Nov. 18.