One year ago today, same-sex couples were able to apply for marriage licenses in the state of Hawaii for the first time.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A year ago today, same-sex couples were able to apply for marriage licenses in the state of Hawai'i for the first time. Within 24 hours, 37 couples were married, and since then 3,015 have tied the knot.
"I think the facts are the facts, and over the past year we've seen that this has been a very good thing for Hawai'i. It has not denigrated any heterosexual couples' marriage. It hasn't undermined anything with regard to the traditional family, in fact it's just broadened the recognition of all families and other couples," said Todd Simmons, the Executive Director of Equality Hawai'i, the state's largest LGBT organization.
Simmons and his husband have been together for 18 years. Their first marriage in Florida in 1997 was symbolic. Their second in Oregon in 2004 was vacated by a judge. Simmons is hoping this third time's the charm and his last walk down the aisle, a proud moment he was able to share with his two sons.
"Getting married for us last year was a very emotional moment for them, I think even more so for us, because they know what it means, even at that young age, they know that this means recognition for their parents and recognition for their family," Simmons said.
Retired Justice Steven Levinson wrote the landmark Hawai'i Supreme Court decision in the Baehr V. Lewin case that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the equal protection clause of the state's constitution -- spurring a marriage equality movement nationwide.
"Judicially speaking, legally speaking, the whole thing began here. It took us awhile to catch up with ourselves, but 20 and a half years later we did and now it's all over the world," Levinson said.
"I'm ecstatic. This is a dream come true," said Levinson, who has officiated 30 weddings in the past year.
"One of my 30 couples were going into their 48th year together. The older guy was 92. He died eight months and nine days after they were married, so at least of their 48 years together and his 93 years of life, he was allowed to be a socially-recognized half of a loving committed couple and although I wish it had been longer, I'm glad he had that opportunity," Levinson said. "Makes me want to cry and cheer at the same time."
Representative Bob McDermott says Senate Bill 1, which became Hawai'i's Marriage Equality Act, is unconstitutional. He voted against same-sex marriage and is taking his fight to the state Supreme Court on December 18.
"I believe SB 1 is unconstitutional because the people in 1998, and the intent of the voter reigns supreme -- their intent, which you can discern from the voter ballot instructions indicates they wanted opposite sex couples only, that's it," said McDermott, who says he believes this issue still divides Hawai'i.
"The solution is to put it in front of the people in an affirmation fashion -- if the folks want to decide that's the sort of community they want to live in, I'm okay with that," said McDermott. "Direct the legislature to put it on the ballot and let the people decide -- that's what we've always said, let the people vote."
During one of his last public appearances as Governor, Neil Abercrombie, who called the Special Session that resulted in the passage of Hawai'i's Marriage Equality bill, said he has no regrets during a gala awards ceremony for Equality Hawai'i.
"I know that as a result of the signing of SB 1 lives have been changed forever that otherwise would not have been changed," the former Hawai'i governor said.