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Same-Sex Marriage  
 
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Veto in New Jersey

In response to the mandate of the 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court, the New Jersey legislature adopted civil unions that purported to offer all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. In 2010, however, a state commission concluded that the civil unions law had been a failure, primarily because many people did not understand what they were.

To remedy the failure, some couples filed suit, asking the courts to redress the injustice. In addition, the state legislature revisited the question of same-sex marriage.

Sponsor Message.

On February 13, 2012, the New Jersey Senate passed, on a vote of 28-16, legislation authorizing same-sex marriage. On February 16, the Assembly, on a vote of 42 to 33, followed suit. The legislation proceeded to the desk of Republican Governor Chris Christie, who promptly vetoed the bill.

In his veto message, Christie called for a referendum on whether to change the definition of marriage in New Jersey and proposed creating an ombudsman to oversee compliance with the state's civil union law.

Christie said, "I am adhering to what I've said since this bill was first introduced--an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide."

"I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples--as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits," the statement continued.

"Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen's right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey's strong tradition of tolerance and fairness."

The legislature had until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to override Christie's veto. Meanwhile, the lawsuit seeking a mandate for marriage continued to make its way through the state court system.

Historic Election, November 6, 2012: Victories in Maine, Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, and Iowa

The general election of November 2012 was historic for a number of reasons, including the fact that it may mark a turning point for marriage equality.

Days after the voters of North Carolina overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions in May 2012, President Obama endorsed marriage equality, effectively placing the issue front and center in the 2012 presidential campaign. The Democratic and Republican parties took polar opposite positions on marriage equality in their platforms and conventions. Hence, in a real sense the 2012 campaign itself was a referendum on marriage equality.

Not only was the first sitting President of the United States who endorsed the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry handily re-elected, but his success was almost certainly helped rather than hindered by his endorsement of marriage equality. Indeed, the President's support for equal rights energized his base and served as a stark contrast to the position of his opponent, Mitt Romney, who had signed a pledge to support a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

In addition, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state voted in favor of marriage equality, while voters in Minnesota rejected a ban on same-sex marriage and voters in Iowa refused to recall a member of the state's supreme court because he joined the opinion that established marriage equality in the state.

Despite their disappointment in the outcome of the 2009 "people's veto" of the marriage equality bill that had been passed by the Maine legislature, the state's marriage equality proponents did not give up in their quest for equal rights. They decided to attempt to persuade Maine voters to change their minds. In 2011, they announced plans to return to the ballot, this time with a proactive proposition to authorize same-sex marriage.

Supporters delivered more than 105,000 petition signatures for the initiative to the Secretary of State's office on January 26, 2012, exceeding the minimum of 57,277 signatures requirement.

On November 6, 2012, Maine voters made history by being the first in the nation to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Question 1, a voter referendum on a citizen-initiated state statute, asked: "Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?" By a 54-46 margin, voters said yes.

In a victory speech in Portland, Matt McTighe, campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage, said, "Supporters from Portland to Presque Isle thought that truth and love are more powerful than fear and deception."

In early January 2013, gay and lesbian couples in Maine were able to marry legally.

Maryland's Question 6 asked voters to vote "For" or "Against" the law that the legislature had passed and Governor O'Malley had signed authorizing marriage equality. The law was approved by the voters on November 6 by a 52-48 margin.

Same-sex marriages in Maryland became legal on January 1, 2013.

The success in Maryland, with its large cadre of African-American voters, suggests that there may have been a considerable shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage on the part of African Americans. Question 6 benefited greatly from the endorsement of the NAACP, civil rights icons such as Julian Bond, and African-American clergy, as well as President Obama.

Washington state's Referendum 74 asked voters whether they approved or rejected the marriage equality legislation passed by the legislature earlier in the year. It was approved by a margin of 53-47.

As the returns came in on election night, state Senator Ed Murray, a primary sponsor of Washington's marriage equality legislation, said, "We celebrate tonight not the victory of one set of Washingtonians over another; instead, we celebrate the belief that all families should be treated fairly.

"We celebrate those who over the decades, despite scorn and discrimination, built this movement and made this day possible," he added.

Same-sex couples in Washington state began marrying legally on December 6, 2012.

In addition, Minnesota voters were faced with a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed, would have limited marriage to opposite-sex couples: "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota."

The amendment received only 47% of the vote and thus failed.

The election result did not authorize marriage equality in Minnesota but it rejected the attempt to inject discrimination into the state constitution. Moreover, the election of supporters of marriage equality to the Minnesota legislature meant that following the election it was possible to envision a realistic path to same-sex marriage in the state.

Finally, in Iowa, Judge David Wiggins, who joined the unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2009 that mandated marriage equality in the state, survived an attempt to remove him from the bench.

Iowa voters, by a 54-46 margin, elected to retain him on the court, thus delivering a blow to anti-gay activists and signalling increased support for same-sex marriage in Iowa.

The results in these races indicate increased support for marriage equality, at least in so-called "blue" states. Voters rejected the tired arguments that had worked in previous elections: that children will be indoctrinated in public schools, that bigots would be persecuted and stifled, and that churches would be forced to sanctify gay marriages.

In rejecting such arguments, voters dealt a blow to the National Organization for Marriage and other anti-gay groups that have had no scruples about defaming gay people and lying about the effects of equal rights. At the very least, opponents of same-sex marriage would no longer be able to say that marriage equality has never won a popular vote.

Colorado Civil Unions

The historic election of 2012 not only resulted in victories for marriage equality, but it also created momentum for further progress. As 2013 dawned, nine states--Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, and Washington--and the District of Columbia allowed same-sex marriage. In a number of other states, relationship recognition also quickly came to the fore.

In May 2012, Colorado Republicans in the state's House of Representatives had filibustered a civil unions bill, causing great frustration in the state's glbtq community. However, activists targeted for defeat a number of opponents of civil unions and made the civil unions defeat a major issue in the 2012 legislative campaign. The tactic was successful: on November 6, 2012, Democrats swept to control of both houses of the legislature. Even more delicious, openly gay Democrat Mark Ferrandino, who was a chief sponsor of the civil unions measure, was elected Speaker of the House, replacing Republican Frank McNulty who had killed the civil unions bill.

With Ferrandino as Speaker, Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, and a governor who has been an outspoken advocate for civil unions, the twice-failed legislation was quickly adopted by the legislature.

On March 23, 2013, the Colorado House of Representatives approved a bill that authorizes civil unions for same-sex couples on a 39 to 26 vote, with two Republicans joining 37 Democrats. The bill, which provides all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, was previously passed by the Senate on a 21-14 vote, with one Republican joining 20 Democrats. Governor John Hickenlooper quickly signed the bill into law. It took effect on May 1, 2013.

While the passage of civil unions is the fulfillment of years of struggle by Colorado's glbtq community, it is regarded as a temporary measure until marriage equality is achieved. That cannot happen until Colorado's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was adopted in 2006, is nullified by a judicial ruling or through a referendum.

Marriage in Rhode Island

Although Rhode Island adopted civil unions in 2011, they were not popular, especially since same-sex marriage was available in neighboring states. Large majorities of the state's voters had been in favor of marriage equality for some time, but it had been repeatedly blocked by Roman Catholic legislators, including most crucially the president of the state Senate, Teresa Pavia Weed. However, in 2012, under increasing pressure from her constituents and colleagues, Pavia Weed agreed not to block the legislation if it was reintroduced in 2013.

In January 2013, the state's House of Representatives adopted marriage equality legislation by a 51-19 margin. On April 24, 2013, on a 26-12 vote, the Rhode Island Senate passed the legislation with some minor amendments. The bill then returned to the House, where it was again passed by a lopsided margin. Immediately after the final vote, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed it into law. It took effect in August 2013.

Openly gay Speaker of the House Gordon Fox and openly gay Senator Donna Nesselbush took leadership roles in making Rhode Island the tenth U.S. state to extend equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. In addition, all five Republican Senators voted in favor of marriage equality, undoubtedly the first time that a marriage equality bill received unanimous support from a state's Republican caucus.

Marriage in Minnesota

In the historic election of November 2012, Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. The ill-fated amendment represented a political miscalculation by the state Republican Party, which attempted to use same-sex marriage as a wedge issue to energize its base. However, it had the opposite effect, serving to energize the supporters of marriage equality. Not only did the amendment fail, but Democrats took control of both houses of the legislature by large margins.

Soon after the new legislature convened in 2013, a bill to authorize same-sex marriage was introduced.

On May 9, 2013, after a three-hour debate, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the marriage equality bill on a vote of 75 to 59. During the debate, an amendment was adopted that added the word "civil" in front of marriage to emphasize that the legislation affects civil marriage, not religious marriage.

Four of the House's 61 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while two of the House's 73 Democrats voted against the bill.

Openly gay Representative Karen Clark was the lead sponsor of the bill in the House. During the debate she said, "My family knew firsthand that same sex couples pay our taxes, we vote, we serve in the military, we take care of our kids and our elders and we run businesses in Minnesota. . . . Same-sex couples should be treated fairly under the law, including the freedom to marry the person we love."

She also paid tribute to her partner of 24 years and to the late Allen Spear, who was the first openly gay member of the Minnesota legislature and a tireless supporter of equal rights.

Following the bill's passage in the House, it was considered in the Senate, where it was passed on a 37-30 vote on May 13, 2013, after a low-key but occasionally moving four-hour debate.

Opponents attempted to amend the bill to extend religious exemptions to individuals and organizations. The amendment, which would have seriously weakened the state's Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, was rejected on a 26-41 vote.

On May 14, Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law during a ceremony held on the steps of the capitol building. The law, which took effect on August 1, 2013, made Minnesota the twelfth U.S. state to extend equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Historic Supreme Court Decisions of 2013

On June 26, 2013, the final day of its term, the United States Supreme Court announced decisions in two cases involving marriage equality. One, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was an appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision declaring California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court found that the appellants, ProtectMarriage, who sponsored the Proposition and who stepped in after California's governor and attorney general had refused to defend Proposition 8, lacked standing to appeal. The result of the decision was that the Ninth Circuit's decision was vacated, which allowed Judge Vaughn Walker's district court decision to prevail.

In consequence of the Supreme Court decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, marriage equality finally returned to the nation's largest state following almost five years of litigation.

The other major decision released on June 26, 2013 will likely lead to marriage equality throughout the nation. Though the ruling itself concerned a challenge to the national Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the decision is sweeping enough to insure that it may well be decisive in forthcoming suits seeking the right of same-sex couples to marry across the nation.

The case challenging DOMA was brought by Edith Windsor, who sued the U.S. government after she was presented with a bill for more than $350,000 for estate taxes following the death of her wife, Thea Spyer. Had the couple been heterosexual, the survivor would have owed no taxes.

Windsor v. U.S. reached the Supreme Court after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had been found unconstitutional by New York District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones. Using the lowest level of judicial scrutiny, "rational basis," Jones found that DOMA violated both equal protection and federalist principles and therefore "does not pass constitutional muster."

The Windsor case was next heard by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit. On October 18, 2012, the Court issued its ruling. Applying "heightened" or "intermediate" scrutiny, a two-judge majority found that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantee. One member of the three-judge panel dissented from the ruling, arguing that the law would be constitutional if reviewed under the "rational basis" standard.

In its 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court did not explicitly resolve the question of the proper level of scrutiny, but it resoundingly struck down Section 3 of DOMA. The Court ruled that Section 3, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional under equal protection principles.

Finessing the question of whether the law should be reviewed under strict scrutiny, the Court announced that was using a "careful" review of laws that are suspicious, thus inching close toward placing sexual orientation classifications in a "suspect class."

The decision declared that DOMA was enacted simply to injure same-sex couples. "DOMA's unusual deviation from the usual tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage here operates to deprive same-sex couples of the benefits and responsibilities that come with the federal recognition of their marriages. This is strong evidence of a law having the purpose and effect of disapproval of that class. The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States."

The Court cited the House of Representatives' Report on the law as proof of Congress' desire to harm gays and lesbians. Kennedy added pointedly, "Were there any doubt of this far-reaching purpose, the title of the Act confirms it: The Defense of Marriage."

The decision described DOMA's principal effect as "to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality. . . ."

The law, the majority declared, "undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, . . . and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify.

Moreover, Justice Kennedy added, DOMA also "humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives."

Echoing the opinion he wrote in the landmark Romer v. Evans case in 1996, Justice Kennedy concluded, "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."

Although the opinion is a carefully tailored one from a bitterly divided Court, it had immediate beneficial consequences. The Obama administration moved quickly to provide access of a wide range of federal benefits and recognitions that married same-sex couples had previously been deemed ineligible to obtain.

New Mexico as Epicenter of Marriage Equality Debate

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark rulings of June 26, 2013, New Mexico became the epicenter of the nation's marriage equality debate. In a matter of days in the third week of August 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a major ruling upholding the state's nondiscrimination statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; a courageous Las Cruces clerk of court began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the Attorney General announced that he would not oppose the action; and then, on August 22, a district judge ordered the clerk of court of Sante Fe County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and on August 23, the clerk announced that she would happily comply.

Soon the largest counties in New Mexico were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Since New Mexico law permits a marriage license issued by one county to be used throughout the state, New Mexico had achieved de facto marriage equality.

Because of the confusion the situation could cause with some county clerks issuing marriage licenses and others not doing so, the New Mexico Association of Counties joined an ongoing case, Griego v. Oliver, concerning marriage equality and requested that the Supreme Court clarify the constitutional obligations of county clerks and establish a state-wide policy.

In a unanimous decision issued on December 19, 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution requires same-sex couples be permitted to marry. The decision, authored by Justice Edward L. Chavez, extended marriage equality to the entire state.

In the decision, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments of those opposed to same-sex marriage that marriage should be reserved to heterosexual couples because of the government's interest in promoting "responsible procreation and child-rearing." The Court pointed out that procreation has never been a requirement for marriage and that depriving gay and lesbian couples, many of whom also raise children, of the right to marry does nothing to promote procreation and child-rearing among heterosexual couples.

The Court concluded that "although none of New Mexico's marriage statutes specifically prohibit same-gender marriages, when read as a whole, the statutes have the effect of precluding same-gender couples from marrying and benefiting from the rights, protections, and responsibilities that flow from a civil marriage. Same-gender couples who wish to enter into a civil marriage with another person of their choice and to the exclusion of all others are similarly situated to opposite-gender couples who want to do the same, yet they are treated differently."

Applying "intermediate scrutiny" because same-gender couples (whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, hereinafter "LGBT") are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the Court found that "New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage laws."

The Court concluded, "Denying same-gender couples the right to marry and thus depriving them and their families of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage violates the equality demanded by the Equal Protection Clause of the New Mexico Constitution."

Having declared the New Mexico marriage laws unconstitutional, the Court outlined its remedy. Declining to strike down the marriage laws because "doing so would be wholly inconsistent with the historical legislative commitment to fostering stable families," the Court ordered instead that "civil marriage shall be construed to mean the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others."

In addition, the Court ordered that "all rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples."

The decision became effective immediately, and since it was based on the New Mexico constitution, it was not subject to a stay or to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Victory in New Jersey

Although Governor Chris Christie had vetoed the bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature that authorized same-sex marriage, Lambda Legal continued its legal challenge on behalf of Garden State Equality and other plaintiffs to the state's civil unions law. In Garden State Equality v. Dow, Lambda Legal argued that New Jersey's civil unions have not been effective in providing "all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy." That lawsuit, originally filed in 2011, was given new life by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor v. U.S.

On September 27, 2013, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry. Relying on Windsor, she said that New Jersey's ban on same-sex marriage violated the state's equal protection guarantees since it prevents same-sex couples from obtaining federal benefits.

Declaring that "The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts," Judge Jacobson ruled that "Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution."

The motion for summary judgment filed by Lambda Legal claimed that the Supreme Court's invalidation of DOMA had made starkly clear how unequal New Jersey's civil unions are in comparison to marriage. Same-sex couples can be equal to heterosexual couples only when both are able to marry. The invalidation of DOMA means that New Jersey's civil unions are an impediment to equality rather than a road to it.

In her carefully considered and clearly articulated decision, Judge Jacobson agreed. She patiently rejected the state's arguments that the time was not "ripe," that Garden State Equality and the individual plaintiffs lacked standing, and that the problem was the federal government's refusal to recognize civil unions rather than the state's refusal to permit same-sex marriage. The state's action in creating civil unions, Judge Jacobson concluded, was responsible for not treating same-sex couples equally.

She said "the current inequality visited upon same-sex civil union couples offends the New Jersey Constitution, creates an incomplete set of rights that Lewis sought to prevent, and is not compatible with 'a reasonable conception of basic human dignity.'"

Judge Jacobson stipulated that her decision become effective on October 21 so that the state could prepare issuing marriage licenses or decide to appeal the decision. Soon after the ruling was released, Governor Christie announced that he would appeal the decision to the New Jersey Supreme Court and asked for a stay of Judge Jacobson's ruling.

On October 10, 2013, however, Judge Jacobson denied Governor Christie's request to stay her order that same-sex marriages be allowed beginning on October 21, 2013.

Governor Christie then requested a stay of Judge Jacobson's decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court, which announced that it would consider both the marriage equality case and the question of a stay.

On October 18, 2013, despite advice from the state Health Department, some New Jersey cities, including Asbury Park, Jersey City, and Newark, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The cities decided to issue the licenses so that gay and lesbian couples could marry at the earliest possible moment if the New Jersey Supreme Court decided not to stay the order of Judge Mary Jacobson that same-sex couples be allowed to wed beginning on October 21, 2013.

On the afternoon of October 18, the Supreme Court announced that it would not issue the stay requested by Governor Christie and that the marriages could begin on October 21. It also made clear that Christie's appeal would not succeed.

At 12:01 a.m. on October 21, 2013, marriage equality dawned in New Jersey. Throughout the Garden State, gay and lesbian couples exchanged vows shortly after midnight as New Jersey became the 15th American state to permit same-sex marriage.

At 9:00 a.m., the Christie administration announced that it was withdrawing its appeal of the court decision that led to the midnight marriages, thus removing any doubt as to whether marriage equality would triumph in the state.

Christie instructed the Attorney General to submit a formal letter to the high court announcing its intent to cease the fight.

"Chief Justice Stuart Rabner left no ambiguity about the unanimous court's view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, 'same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,'" the administration's announcement stated.

It added: "Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the Court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law. The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."

Marriage Victories in Illinois and Hawaii

As 2013 come to a close two more states--Illinois and Hawaii--adopted marriage equality legislatively.

On November 5, 2013, the Illinois House of Representatives passed on a 61-54 vote Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. The bill, amended earlier with a new effective date, then returned to the Senate, which concurred on a 32-21 vote. It then went to Governor Pat Quinn, who signed it at an elaborate ceremony in Chicago.

Despite the comfortable margin of passage in both houses, the struggle for marriage equality in Illinois was difficult and took place over several months. Because the bill was passed in a special session, it did not officially go into effect until June 1, 2014. However, marriage equality was actually achieved earlier, on February 21, 2014, when U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, ruling in a suit brought by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois, ordered that Cook County must allow same-sex couples to marry immediately. While the ruling applied specifically to Cook County, it was soon extended to may other counties.

Hawaii's legislature passed marriage equality legislation in November 2013. After almost twelve hours of debate on November 8, 2013, the House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing same-sex marriage by a vote of 30 to 19, with 2 absences. Because the House amended a bill originally passed by the Senate, it then returned to the Senate for a reconciliation vote, which took place on November 12, when it was passed on a 19-4 vote. It was signed into law by Governor Neal Abercrombie on November 13.

Despite the comfortable margins of victory in both the House and the Senate, however, the marriage bill was bitterly contested, especially in the House. Anti-gay churches and organizations bussed in demonstrators to protest the bill and to spread lies and fear about its consequences. Moreover, the bipartisan opposition in the legislature used every delaying tactic at its disposal to attempt to derail or at least slow the march toward equal rights for glbtq citizens.

More than 20 amendments, some nearly identical to ones that had previously been defeated, were offered by the opponents. Most of them were attempts to expand the religious exemptions in the bill and to authorize discrimination against same-sex couples by business owners and others who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

Many of the legislators simply lied as they stoked fears and misrepresented the experience in other states that have permitted same-sex marriage. Moreover, some also distorted Hawaiian history, as they attempted to portray homosexuality as something imported from the mainland, notably omitting the fact that what actually was imposed on native Hawaiians by colonists in the nineteenth century was not homosexuality (which was widely practiced and accepted) but a fundamentalist version of Christianity that deems homosexuality immoral.

At times the debate was more theological than political as legislators on both sides evoked religion to justify their positions.

At one point, Representative Tom Brower told his colleagues, "I urge Christians to be more concerned with the actions of people calling themselves 'Christians' than with gay people calling themselves 'married.'"

Representative Chris Lee, after comparing marriage equality to women's suffrage, racial equality, and interracial marriage, said, "I choose to err on the side of fairness, on the side of freedom, on the side of aloha, on the side of love."

In the most moving speech of the debate, freshman Representative Kaniela Ing, after evoking the stories of Matthew Shepard, and of others who have struggled under inequality, asked, "How many more gay people must God create until we realize he wants them here?"

Following the vote, Governor Abercrombie issued a statement commending the House of Representatives "for taking this historic vote to move justice and equality forward. After more than 50 hours of public testimony from thousands of testifiers on both sides of the issue, evaluating dozens of amendments, and deliberating procedures through hours of floor debates, the House passed this significant bill, which directly creates a balance between marriage equity for same-sex couples and protects our First Amendment freedoms for religious organizations."

The law took effect on December 2, 2013.

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