Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation Wednesday making Hawaii the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Abercrombie, who called a special session in August to address the issue, moved quickly after the state Senate passed the bill, 19-4, Tuesday. The House approved it by a 30-19 vote Friday. Gay and lesbian couples in Hawaii will be eligible for marriage licenses starting Dec. 2.
President Obama praised the state he grew up in Tuesday night following the legislature’s action.
“I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder,” Obama said in a statement.
The state the president currently calls home, Illinois, is poised to soon join Hawaii. The state legislature approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage last week, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to sign it into law Nov. 20.
Year In Review
The past two weeks represent the culmination of a landmark year for the gay rights movement in which public support has continued to grow and five other states legalized same-sex marriage.
Two historic rulings issued by the Supreme Court in late June paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in California and New Jersey. The court struck down Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act, providing the legal reasoning for a New Jersey judge to overturn the state’s system of civil unions.
In addition, state legislatures in Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island passed legislation allowing same-sex marriages in 2013.
This all came after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved the legalization of gay marriage at the ballot box in November 2012.
Once Hawaii and Illinois officially enter the fray, same-sex couples will be able to wed in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
Gay rights activists hope to build on their recent momentum and make additional progress in the 33 states that limit marriage to one man and one woman — 29 of which do so through constitutional amendments.
In New Mexico — the only state that does not have a law explicitly allowing or prohibiting same-sex marriage — the state Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of the year if gay couples have the right to marry after hearing oral arguments in October.
The battle over gay marriage also appears likely to come to Oregon. Organizers are in the process of collecting signatures to put a measure on the ballot in 2014 to overturn the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
The Human Rights Campaign has identified five other states as potential targets for efforts to put same-sex marriage on the 2016 ballot: Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio.
Nevada is a more complicated proposition than the other four states: a measure amending the constitution to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage may not go on the ballot until the state legislature approves it twice in consecutive biennial sessions.
Gay marriage opponents are gearing up to fight back. There’s a push to take Indiana’s prohibition on gay marriage one step further by placing it in the state constitution. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the proposal early next year; if it passes, voters would have the final say on Election Day in 2014.
And if the New Mexico Supreme Court decides to sanction same-sex marriages — a ruling is expected soon — Republican lawmakers may seek to ban them through a constitutional referendum.