QUESTION: Now that the state Legislature has passed the marriage equality bill, what happens next to the measure?
ANSWER: Senate Bill 1, House Draft 1 now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrombie who has already said he will sign it into law.
Q: Once it is law, when will same-sex couples be able to marry in Hawaii?
A: The bill allows for legal gay marriages as soon as Dec. 2.
Q: What will happen to Hawaii-sanctioned civil unions now that the state plans to permit same-sex marriages?
A: In short: nothing. According to the state’s registrar of vital statistics, the civil union law — and reciprocal beneficiaries — will remain unchanged. Neither will phase out as a result of same-sex marriage being passed. The bill passed today states that couples will not need to terminate their civil unions or reciprocal beneficiary relationships before marrying because the marriage will automatically do that for them. Additionally, rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities offered to the couple through the previous legal relationship will continue uninterrupted through the marriage and be considered to have accrued since the first date of the civil union or reciprocal beneficiary relationship.
Q: Will the opposition to same-sex marriage end with the new law?
A: No. Opponents vow to challenge the law in court once Abercrombie signs it. Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto on Thursday declined to issue a restraining order sought by opponents to halt action on the legislation, but said once the law is adopted, he will consider its constitutionality.
Q: Why did Abercrombie call the Legislature into a special session to pass the same-sex marriage bill instead of wait until the next regular session in January?
A: Abercrombie cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act and allowed married same-sex couples to receive federal benefits. Abercrombie said a same-sex marriage law would need to be in effect by Dec. 31 for married same-sex couples to be able to take full advantage of tax benefits now offered by the federal government as a result of that decision.
Q: How many other states have legalized same-sex marriage?
A: If Abercrombie signs the bill soon as expected, Hawaii becomes the 15th state to legalize gay marriage. The Illinois Legislature approved a gay marriage bill last week, but Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign it into law at a Nov. 20 ceremony.