The Hawaii Senate gave final approval to a same-sex marriage bill on Tuesday, with a 19-4 vote in favor. The bill, strongly supported by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, could be signed into law later today. That would make Hawaii the 15th state to legalize gay marriage. The bill would take effect December 2.
Earlier this year, Abercrombie called a special session of the Hawaii legislature just to give the state a chance to legalize gay marriage by the end of the year. While Abercrombie does have a record of supporting the advancement of marriage equality, his urgency was prompted by the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Defense of Marriage Act restrictions on federal benefits for legally-married gay couples. The bill would open up married, same-sex couples in the state to the same federal benefits offered to any other married couple.
After the bill initially passed the Senate at the end of October by a vote of 20-4, the House amended the measure to expand religious exemptions to include more religious organizations. Then, the House passed the bill 30-19, sending it back to the Senate for final approval in its amended form. It is expected that Abercrombie will sign it into law with no further amendments.