Hawaii Senate Approves Gay Marriage Legislation Depite Public Split on Issue

Hawaii is well on its way to approving same-sex marriage after the state's Senate voted this week to repeal a voter-approved constitutional amendment specifically defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The vote came after the state's governor introduced a special session to have same-sex marriage legislation addressed, and although the legislation is expected to pass the House of Representatives' vote, Hawaii residents still remain greatly divided on the issue of redefining the meaning of marriage. 

Hawaii's Senate voted 20-4 on Wednesday to have same-sex marriage legalized in the state. The state's lone Republican Senator joined three Democrats in opposing the legislation, which seeks to repeal a 1998 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Hawaii's Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has voiced his interest in expediting legislation to redefine marriage in his state. He told Al-Jazeera America news on Monday that he believes the gay marriage legislation will be passed in the state "within a week or so." Abercrombie added that the bill was drawn up primarily in response to the Supreme Court's June rulings regarding gay marriage and subsequent legal action taken in Hawaii by same-sex couples hoping to have the state recognize marriage between same-sex couples. "The bill primarily is in response to the recent Supreme Court decisions and legal action that was taken in our state with regard to equality issues that we think the bill will resolve," Abercrombie said.

Although the legislation is expected to pass the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives with ease, the issue of same-sex marriage has been a great source of contention among residents of the Aloha State. According to Honolulu's local news outlet KHON2 News, nearly 1,000 people were expected to testify at the senate session regarding the bill earlier this week to express their concerns over the legislation. Gov. Abercrombie has claimed to those concerned about the bill's possible infringement on constitutional rights that religious freedoms would be protected, as the legislation exempts clergy and churches from having to perform same-sex marriages.

However, his reassurances have not satisifed many in the state, and various groups supporting the biblical definition of marriage in the state remain strongly against the special session legislation. Hawaii Family Advocacy President Jim Hochberg said in a comment to KHON2 News that "changing the definition of marriage in the sense that will affect in ways we do not know the public institution, making gender optional, it's just something that should not happen."

Another pro-traditional marriage commercial by the Hawaii Republican Assembly that is circulating the state's television networks says that same-sex marriage is "merely a stepping stone to have government forcibly legitimize and normalize all sorts of deviant behavior. Terrible consequences will affect everyone and everything imaginable forever."

If the House of Representatives approves the gay marriage legislation, Hawaii will become the 15th state to legalize the practice. Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his legal challenge to gay marriage, making his state the 14th to legalize same-sex marriage.