Marriage equality supporters reflect and look forward - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Marriage equality supporters reflect and look forward

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The celebration has begun for marriage equality supporters. For the Hawaii couples that started the movement 23 years ago today was mission accomplished.

"Done," said Governor Neil Abercrombie, as he signed the Marriage Equality bill into law.

That marked the completion of a 23 year journey.

"To me its closure. It's just wonderful to be here today," said Genora Dancel, marriage equality pioneer.

Genora Dancel and her partner Ninia Baehr were one of three couples that marched into the Department of Health for a marriage license back in 1990 and were denied, thus starting the marriage equality movement. Dancel never thought it would take so long to finish.

"The whole story, it has many facets to it but it all came together today so when he signed it was like the finishing line. It's like mission accomplished to me," said Dancel, after the signing ceremony.

She and Baehr are no longer together but she has a new love named Kathryn Dennis. They have been together 15 years and plan to get married likely on December 17. That is the exact same day they were denied a marriage license 23 years ago. They also plan to have their original attorney Dan Foley, who is now a judge, marry them.

"To me that would be the cherry on top," said Dancel.

Evan Wolfson worked with Dancel and was also a marriage equality pioneer who started Freedom to Marry. He flew in from New York for the historic day.

"It's especially sweet to bring the Freedom to Marry home to the state where it all started. Hawaii launched this ongoing global movement. Many other states and many other countries have followed Hawaii's lead and it's a happy day Hawaii can now join in the celebration it started," said Wolfson, Freedom to Marry Founder & President.

The room at the Convention Center where the signing ceremony was held was filled with stories if how the marriage equality law will change lives. Like Father Jack Isbell, who is now with the independent Catholic movement since he is openly gay and not recognized by Rome.

"That's why we are so interested in marriage equality because I think that too will help churches move in that direction," said Isbell.

There is also Deborah Cohn and Eileen McKee who were hurt by the testimony of opponents and couldn't hold back their tears during the signing.

"This is the best day of our lives," said Cohn.

That's saying something considering they've been together 22 years.

 

"It feels great. Unbelievable. I'm exhausted from the last two weeks but thrilled. Thrilled to be part of Hawaii right now. This is just great," said Eileen McKee, with the LGBT Caucus of the Hawaii Democratic Party.

"And I'm really honored to call her my wife. She worked really hard and was one of the foot soldiers. But we're done," said Cohn.

Then there is Chris Nelson and Jonipher Kupono Kwong. Jonipher is a reverend at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu who has married more than 50 heterosexual couples.

"I have this tag line that I'm always the minister and never the groom and so it's wonderful to be on the other side of this equation," said Kwong.

Now he and his love of 15 years plan to get married one second after midnight on December 2, the first day possible.

"Now that it's legal here we're getting married at midnight," said Chris Nelson. "We're not waiting."

"We're not waiting anymore," said Kwong.

Why wait when it's now signed, sealed and delivered.

Kwong and Nelson had planned to get married in California but figured they had time to plan, but then Proposition 8 repealed gay marriage there and delayed their plans. Now they say they've learned which is another reason they plan to get married as soon as they possibly can.