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House Democrats to meet on same-sex marriage bill

By Oscar Garcia

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:14 p.m. HST, Sep 05, 2013

House Democrats plan to meet with Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state attorney general on Friday to discuss a draft of gay marriage legislation as Abercrombie considers whether to call a special session on the issue.

A House spokeswoman said today the meeting is scheduled to be held at the state Capitol.

The meeting comes more than a week after Abercrombie publicly released an 18-page draft of legislation that would allow marriage licenses to be issued starting Oct. 3 and ceremonies to begin Nov. 1.

Also today, several dozen Hawaii businesses endorsed the legislation, including Waikiki hotel operator Aqua Resorts and several wedding-related businesses. The businesses aligned themselves with Hawaii United For Marriage, a group pushing the special session.

Sean Hower, president of Hitched on Maui, an app with wedding resources, said approving gay marriage would make business sense given all the ceremonies that happen in the state.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, more than 71,000 visitors came to the state to get married over the first seven months of the year.

"Imagine the multiplier effect of adding gay couples to that list," Hower said in a statement.

Abercrombie has not firmly said whether a special session will be called. The regular legislative session begins in January.

Proponents of gay marriage have said a special session would allow a law to pass without delay, and with minimal influence from groups outside the state. Opponents, including several religious groups, have said a special session would cost extra money and prevent proper debate.

If a bill is passed, Hawaii would join 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia in legalizing gay marriage. Hawaii, like a handful of states, already offers same-sex civil unions.

An economic analysis released last month from the University of Hawaii said legalizing gay marriage would add $217 million to the state's tourism economy over the next three years, with $166 million spent on marriage ceremonies and honeymoons.

The analysis said about 2,000 same-sex couples living in Hawaii would likely be married by 2016.

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