HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Months of speculation are over, Governor Abercrombie called a special session on same-sex marriage Monday afternoon.
The Governor says it's the right thing to do and he believes he has the support needed in both the House and Senate to pass a bill that would make Hawai'i the 14th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Abercrombie says his decision is the natural progression in a discussion that began in this state 20 years ago.
"It's time for marriage equity to take place, and it's also time to recognize that it can take place without violating the religious principals of anybody in this state," Abercrombie said during his announcement at the State Capitol.
The special session will begin October 28, 2013 – just two months shy of the regular session which begins next January. If it passes, same-sex marriage licenses and ceremonies will be effective November 18, 2013.
"There are serious, deep and wide-ranging consequences, particularly with regard to tax law, that have to be in effect by December 31 if they're to be taken full advantage of, presuming that the bill has enough votes for passage," Gov. Abercrombie explained.
Representative Gene Ward disagrees with the Governor's choice and plans to vote against the bill.
"I think the people out there really are not totally for this. I think it's an exception that we have a special session for what now is for a very select, very narrow reason. There's not a state or a federal guarantee to same-sex marriage, so why are we rushing?" Ward explained.
Lawmakers have expressed concern in the past about terms in the bill, specifically the exceptions for officiants and religious property. Legislators say as its currently written, clergy will have the right to refuse to participate in same-sex marriages and only churches that perform weddings as a for-profit business stand the chance of being included in the state's public accommodations law. The Governor says he's confident the proposal achieves a delicate balance that respects the First Amendment because it's the same language used in the Civil Unions bill.
"It's so clear there's not been a single lawsuit. There's not been a single instance of complaint," Gov. Abercrombie explained.
Civil unions will remain unchanged, but Representative Chris Lee, who has been advocating for a special session and plans to vote for the bill, says if it passes, it will create marriage equality in the state.
"It's a great day and I think it reflects growing public opinion and I think we're going to see a tremendous boon to our economy. At the end of the day, I think it's the right thing to do and it really exemplifies our values of aloha and respect for all here in Hawai'i."
Public hearings will be scheduled during the special session and input from the community will be taken into account. Legislative clerks estimate the special session will cost about $25,800. It's expected to last four or five days.