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Hawaii Marriage Equality Act

Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013
Seal of the State of Hawaii
Hawaii State Legislature
Relating to Equal Rights
Citation Act 1, 2nd Special Session, Session Laws of Hawaii 2013
Territorial extent State of Hawaii
Enacted by Hawaii State Legislature
Date passed November 12, 2013
Date signed November 13, 2013
Signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie
Date commenced December 2, 2013
Legislative history
Bill SB1
Bill citation Senate Bill No. 1
Introduced by Brickwood Galuteria
Committee report House Standing Committee Report No. 4
Recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex. Extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive.
Status: In force
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender
Rights in Hawaii

Baehr v. Lewin (1993)
Baehr v. Miike (1996, 1999)
Constitutional Amendment 2 (1998)
House Bill 444 (2009)
Senate Bill 232 (2011)
Hawaii Marriage Equality Act (2013)

Equality Hawaii

LGBT rights in the United States
Same-sex marriage in Hawaii
Reciprocal beneficiary relationships in Hawaii
LGBT history in Hawaii

LGBT Portal

The Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 is legislation passed by the Hawaii State Legislature as Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of Hawaii.[1] Prior to the bill's enactment, same-sex couples in the state of Hawaii were allowed to form civil unions (since 2012) or reciprocal beneficiary relationships (RBRs, since 1997); however, civil unions are both legally limited to civil officials in their performance and unrecognized by the federal government, and RBRs are even more limited by the rights and privileges accorded.


  • History 1
    • Before the special session 1.1
    • Legislature special session 1.2
  • Public reaction 2
    • Lawsuit 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Before the special session

In January 2013, a bill was introduced in the Hawaii House of Representatives and Senate that would legalize same-sex marriage.[2][3] Despite the support of Governor Abercrombie and the Hawaii Congressional delegation, the Legislature adjourned without voting on the legislation.[4]

In July 2013, following the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, lawmakers considered a special session to vote on the legislation, but House and Senate leaders said they did not have the required two-thirds majority to call a special session.[5][6] The Legislature's regular session resumes in January 2014, unless Governor Abercrombie calls a special session, which he says is "very likely".[7] On August 19, a group of religious leaders in Hawaii signed a resolution calling on the state to enact a same-sex marriage law.[8] On the same day, Governor Abercrombie told a gathering of state Democrats: "I think we can put together something that can achieve a solid majority, that will give us the opportunity to establish marriage equity in the state of Hawaii commensurate with the recent Supreme Court decisions, and will satisfy and resolve the issues that are presently before the appeals court on the mainland."[9] On August 22, Hawaii State House Speaker Joseph Souki acknowledged that a majority of House lawmakers supported same-sex marriage, indicating that both houses of the legislature have majorities that would support same-sex marriage legislation in a special session.[10] On the same day, State Representative Denny Coffman, a supporter of same-sex marriage, announced his support of a special session, which he had previously opposed when unaware that the governor's office and the State Attorney General's office were working on draft legislation.[11] On August 29, Governor Abercrombie released a draft bill and said he would let lawmakers review it before deciding whether to call a special session.[12] On the same day, The State Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawaii unanimously approved a resolution calling on state lawmakers to approve a same-sex marriage bill immediately.[13]

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Honolulu, Larry Silva, sent a letter to legislators on August 22 asking them to support traditional marriage and protect religious freedom by opposing same-sex marriage legislation. He then wrote a letter to parishioners published August 24-5 that said that a special session "could happen any day" and asked for prayers "for a change of heart and the formation of an informed conscience" and for courteous lobbying efforts. He described prohibiting same-sex marriage as a "just" form of discrimination, warned that legalization of polygamy and incest would follow, and described children raised by same-sex parents as "the greatest casualties" of legalization. He asked: "Would churches that refuse to celebrate same-sex marriage because of deeply held religious convictions be deprived of the freedom to live those convictions?" and "Would Christians, Muslims, and others who believe that homosexual acts are contrary to God's law be persecuted for holding on to those beliefs?"[14]

Legislature special session

On September 9, Governor Abercrombie announced that he is calling the Hawaii State Legislature into special session on October 28 to consider the same-sex marriage bill.[15] The bill had wide support in the Senate as well as the required majority in the House.[16] If approved, the bill would take effect November 18.[17]

On October 28, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor debated and passed same-sex marriage legislation in a 5-2 vote, sending the bill to a full Senate vote.[18] On October 30, the Senate approved the legislation in a 20-4 vote, sending the bill to the House.[19] The bill was then debated by the joint House Committees on Judiciary and on Finance for several days beginning October 31, as 5,184 people signed up to testify. By the end of November 4, all initial testifiers had been heard. During the hearings, opponents of the bill were suspected of having people sign up to testify multiple times under different names to prolong the hearing process.[20] On November 5, both House committees passed same-sex marriage legislation with an 18 to 12 vote (Judiciary committee 8 to 5 and Finance committee 10 to 7), sending the bill to a full House vote.[21]

Following extensive public debate and an attempted 'citizens' filibuster' of the legislation to block its progress,[22] the full state House advanced the same-sex marriage bill to a final vote 30-18, a key hurdle for the measure that would allow same-sex couples to marry while also expanding a religious exemption amendment beyond what the Senate had approved. On November 8, House then passed the bill on its final reading 30-19. As the House amended the bill, the Senate would also have to approve the expanded religious exemption amendment for the bill to become law.[23][24][25] The Senate voted 19-4 in favor of the amended bill on November 12,[26] and the final version of the bill was signed into law by Governor Abercrombie on November 13.[1] The law went into full effect on December 2, 2013.

Public reaction

Hundreds of people appeared at the State Capitol demonstrating in support and in opposition to the bill from the day of a key House vote on November 6 through the final Senate vote on November 12.[27][28][29] To maintain security, the House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms divided space in the Capitol rotunda and on the sidewalk fronting Beretania Street between supporters and opponents, and set up barricades to physically separate the two groups.[30][31]


A lawsuit was filed during the special legislative session by State Representative Bob McDermott, a Republican member of the House who was opposed to same-sex marriage. The lawsuit sought a temporary injunction against implementing SB1, and challenged the constitutionality of the bill. Rep. McDermott and other plaintiffs based the lawsuit on the claim that voters believed that the 1998 constitutional amendment only allowed the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage and simultaneously barred the reverse.[32] Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto denied the request for the injunction on November 14, ruling that "the court will conclude that same-sex marriage in Hawaii is legal".[33][34] The state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in December 2014,[35] which was granted on January 29, 2014.[36] The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on May 27, 2015 that Rep. McDermott and other plaintiffs did not show any injury from the enactment of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act, meaning they did not have standing to challenge the law, and dismissed their case.[37][38]

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Bill Status of SB1369
  3. ^ Bill Status of HB1109
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  11. ^ (subscription required)
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  17. ^ SB1, Relating to Equal Rights, Hawaii Legislature
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  25. ^ (subscription required)
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  38. ^ (subscription required)

External links

  • Senate Bill 1 archived status page (2nd Special Session of 2013), Hawaii State Legislature
  • Marriage license information, Hawaii Department of Health
  • FAQ page about the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013, Office of the Governor of the State of Hawaii
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