Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) has signed the marriage equality bill into law, solidifying The Aloha State as the 15th state to recognize same-sex marriages. During his remarks, Abercrombie proclaimed that “those who have been invisible will now be visible to themselves and the whole world.” The law will take effect Monday, December 2, and the signing concludes the special legislation session Abercrombie called for the bill’s consideration.
Hawaii was one of the very first states to consider marriage equality. Three same-sex couples sued for the right to marry in the early 1990s, and a judge ruled in 1996 that the state was in fact discriminating against them in a way that was unconstitutional. Those couples were never able to marry, however, because while their case was being considered by higher state courts, the people of Hawaii passed a constitutional amendment empowering the legislature to limit marriage to a man and a woman, which it did. The Hawaii case alarmed conservatives across the country and prompted Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act, limiting the extent to which same-sex marriages could be recognized should they become legal.
Though arguably Illinois overcame its biggest legislative hurdle before Hawaii did, Hawaii will have signed its bill into law first, and its law will take effect first. With Illinois, 16 states and the District of Columbia will recognize same-sex marriage.