Hawaii Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill

The Aloha state is poised to become the 16th state to legalize gay marriage

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Oskar Garcia / AP

Gay marriage supporters rally outside the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu ahead of a Senate vote on whether to legalize same-sex marriage on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.

Hawaii is one signature away from becoming the 16th state to legalize gay marriage. The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage 19-4, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie — who has vocally supported gay marriage — says he will sign the measure, the Associated Press reports.

Hawaii, a popular location for destination weddings, will permit thousands of gay couples living in the state as well as tourists to marry starting Dec. 2.

Cheers erupted inside the gallery when the vote was taken, though senate president Donna Marcado Kim — who voted against the bill — banged her gavel and told observers to quiet down.

But it was hard to contain the excitement of gay marriage supporters on the islands. “This is nothing more than the expansion of aloha in Hawaii,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, a Democrat from Maui. University of Hawaii researchers estimate the law will boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years.

President Obama, who was born in Hawaii, said of the vote, “Whenever freedom and equality are affirmed, our country becomes stronger. By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation. I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder.”

Winning in Hawaii holds symbolic significance for the gay rights movement. In 1990 a lesbian couple famously applied for a marriage license in the state, setting off a court battle that led to a national discussion of gay marriage. The case led Congress to pass the Defense of Marriage act in 1996, part of which was struck down earlier this year by the supreme court.

MORE: These Are the Next Gay-Marriage Battlegrounds