Monday marks the start of Hawaii's special legislative session to take up a bill to legally recognize same-sex marriage. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the special session last month in an effort to "create equity for all in Hawaii."
Fifteen years ago, voters in Hawaii approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, but the state Senate passed a bill in 2011 that made civil unions legal. If the Hawaii Legislature approves of the marriage equality bill, Hawaii would become the 15th state in the nation to recognize same-sex marriage, as well as Washington, D.C.
Gov. Abercrombie said Sunday that he couldn't guarantee the bill's approval, but that he was confident the argument was "ready to be concluded."
"It's quite clear that in the wake of the Supreme Court decisions with regard to the Defense of Marriage Act that there are implications for taxes, implications for life decisions for people and if you delay anything, you're essentially denying it," Abercrombie said in an interview with MSNBC's Craig Melvin. "You can't really say to somebody, if there's a question of equity, that it needs to be put off for some period of time. With everyone's tax situation coming up in January, I felt it was very important that we resolve this situation well before then."
The momentum behind marriage equality across the nation is at an all-time high after four successful ballot initiatives in 2012--three that legalized same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, and one that blocked a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Just last week, New Jersey became the 14th state in the country to begin marrying same-sex couples after Gov. Chris Christie announced he would drop his appeal to block marriage equality.
The first public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Monday morning, and a second one will take place Thursday. According to HawaiiNewsNow, if House members make amendments to the bill, the earliest the Senate will have its first chance to vote on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Marriage licenses could be issued to same-sex couples as early as Nov. 18 if the legislation suceeds.