HONOLULU — Governor Neil Abercrombie signed a bill Wednesday legalizing gay marriage in Hawaii, the state that kicked off a national discussion of the issue more than two decades ago.
Now, the island chain is positioning itself for a boost in tourism as people take advantage of the new law and the state provides another example of the nation’s changing views on marriage.
Speaking before a theater of invited guests at a convention center near the tourist hub of Waikiki, Abercrombie said he believes the law is in line with the spirit of aloha embodied in the state constitution.
Hawaii’s gay marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry.
Abercrombie said he planned to give the pen he used to sign the bill to Steve Levinson, the Hawaii Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1993 opinion.
The Hawaii ruling helped lead Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, part of which was struck down this year by the US Supreme Court.
The decision led Abercrombie to call the special session that produced Hawaii’s gay marriage law.
The law allows gay couples living in Hawaii and tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2. Another 14 states and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage. A bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois.