After two decades of attempts, moments ago Hawaii moved one huge step forward toward extending marriage to all same-sex couples. The Senate voted on a same-sex marriage bill, passing it by a vote of 20-4.
“This is a defining moment in all of our careers. And we should embrace it,” Democratic Senator Clayton Hee, a 60-year old educator and native Hawaiian told his colleagues. “There should be no legal distinction between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples under the laws of this state.”
Of the few senators who spoke against the bill, Senator Sam Slom held the chamber hostage, speaking for over 20 minutes, ranting and almost rambling against same-sex marriage and many other issues, including taxes and business regulations.
“We are the plantation here… We have more unholy alliances between businesses and government than any other state,” Slom, who is also the president and executive director of Small Business Hawaii, claimed. Slom is the sole Republican in the Hawaii Senate.
No other Senator was as verbose or as antagonistic.
Senator Mike Gabbard, a Democrat, opposed the bill, and recounted the state’s two-decade long history of marriage equality. He claimed he had been receiving emails calling him a “homophobe,” “Satan,” and “a hater.”
Gabbard, like Slom, said he saw no reason to address equality today.
Ironically, Gabbard lamented all the people who could “not afford the airfare, or the babysitters” to come to the State House to testify against the bill. Slom on Monday had suggested there was no reason why same-sex couples couldn’t merely fly to the mainland, perhaps California, to marry.
Gabbard suggested the body come up with the “Aloha solution” by voting the bill down.
But most spoke in favor of the legislation.
“I’ve seen discrimination up close,” Democrat Rosalyn Baker told her colleagues. “You simply don’t put rights on the ballot… Minorities don’t ever get their rights that way.”
Baker quoted Eleanor Roosevelt. “Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places,” she recited. Roosevelt was the original chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and was a involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The House takes up the bill tomorrow.
Image: Inside the Senate chamber this evening. Photo by Hawaii United, via Twitter
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