Gay Marriage Legalized in Hawaii, Indiana Considers Amendment to Ban Same-Sex Marriage
Hawaii became the 15th US state to legalize gay marriage on Nov. 13, 2013, while the Indiana legislature considered a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in that state.
In Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed a bill allowing same-sex marriages to begin on Dec. 2, 2013. The new bill counters three prior actions in Hawaii’s history: a 1994 statute passed by the state legislature which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman; a 1998 constitutional amendment approved by 70% of voters that gave lawmakers the authority to pass a gay marriage ban; and the legislature’s subsequent use of that authority to ban gay marriage in the state.
Before signing the bill, Abercrombie stated: “Finally, today now all those who have been invisible will be visible to themselves and the whole world.” The Hawaii Senate’s only Republican, Sam Slom, who voted against the bill along with Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and two other Democrats, stated after the bill was approved by the State Senate on Nov. 12, 2013 that “you can’t legislate morality. You can try, but you can’t do it.”
Passage of the bill in the state House and Senate followed a public debate during which more than 1,000 people spoke out on the issue, contributing 56 hours of public testimony. The bill exempts religious groups from having to provide facilities for same-sex weddings.
A University of Hawaii researcher has estimated that legalizing same-sex marriage will boost Hawaii’s tourism revenue by $217 million over three years, according to Associated Press.
Hawaii is considered to be the birthplace of the national same-sex marriage movement. A 1993 State Supreme Court ruling that the state could not deny marriage rights to same-sex couples was the first of its kind and sparked a national backlash. Dozens of states altered their constitutions to ban gay marriage in the ensuing years, and 1996’s federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defined marriage as between one man and one woman, barring same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage benefits. In June 2013, the US Supreme Court overturned key provisions of DOMA.
In Indiana, where gay marriage is already banned under state law, legislators from both parties are supporting a constitutional amendment to enshrine the ban in the state constitution. Although lawmakers have introduced similar constitutional bans every year since 2004, all of which failed to pass, support from Democrats is seen as making this attempt more likely to succeed. If passed by the legislature, the amendment would need to be ratified by voters before becoming law.
The proposed amendment has garnered opposition from some of the state’s largest employers, including Indiana University (IU), which has joined a pro-gay marriage coalition called Freedom Indiana. IU President Michael A. McRobbie stated that the amendment “sends a powerfully negative message of Indiana as a place to live and work that is not welcoming to people of all backgrounds and beliefs… [The amendment] would needlessly complicate our efforts to attract employees to our campuses around the state.” Indiana-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is among the pro-gay marriage companies to join Freedom Indiana in opposing the amendment, and has threatened to move its operations out of the state if the ban is passed.
Same-sex marriage is expected to become legal in Illinois on Nov. 20, 2013, when Governor Pat Quinn has promised to sign a bill that passed the State House and Senate earlier this month. Gay marriage is still banned in 34 US states.
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Al Jazeera America, “Indiana Prepares to Vote on Amendment Banning Gay Marriage,” america.aljazeera.com, Nov. 12, 2013
Eric Eckholm, “Gay Marriage Battle Nears End in Hawaii, the First Front Line,” nytimes.com, Nov. 8, 2013
Oskar Garcia/Associated Press, “Hawaii Governor to Sign State’s Gay Marriage Bill,” abcnews.go.com, Nov. 12, 2013
Indiana University, “Indiana University Joins Freedom Indiana in Fight Against Constitutional Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage,” news.indiana.edu, Oct. 28, 2013
Soumya Karlamangla, “With the Governor’s Signature, Hawaii Legalizes Gay Marriage,” latimes.com, Nov. 13, 2013
Miranda Leitsinger, “Hawaii to Become 15th State to Grant Gay Marriage — Leapfrogging Illinois,” nbcnews.com, Nov. 12, 2013
William Peacock, “Hawaii Same-Sex Marriage Case on Hold Pending Legislative Action,” blogs.findlaw.com, Sep. 27, 2013
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Daniel B. Wood, “Gay Marriage: With State Senate Vote to Legalize, Hawaii Closes the Circle,” csmonitor.com, Nov. 12, 2013