Hawaii Marriage
Hawaii will become the 15th U.S. State to extend marriage to same-sex couples. Reuters

Gay or straight, couples soon will be able to get married in Hawaii. The Hawaiian Senate approved a bill Tuesday afternoon that extends civil marriage rights to same-sex couples, Reuters reported.

The bill previously passed the House and is expected to become law almost immediately when Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a fervent supporter, signs it, Buzzfeed added. The Senate vote was 19-4. Abercrombie called the Legislature into special session to pass the bill.

Hawaii will become the 15th U.S. state with legal marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The Illinois Legislature passed its marriage bill last week, and Gov. Pat Quinn says he will sign it Nov. 20, making that state No. 16. Same-sex marrige was also legalized in New Jersey last month through a court decision.

Hawaii is a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons, and the vital tourism sector expects to benefit. Gay marriages are to begin Dec. 2.

People who oppose marriage equality on moral grounds will be protected, Sen. Will Espero said, citing the religious exemptions in the bill. “If your church does not want to conduct a same-sex marriage, it does not have to conduct a same-sex marriage,” Espero said via Buzzfeed. “You do not have to attend a same-sex marriage.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled key provisions of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and ratified the overturning of California's ban, Proposition 8.

President Barack Obama issued a statement praising his native state after it passed the marriage equality bill. “I want to congratulate the Hawaii State Legislature on passing legislation in support of marriage equality,” he said. “With today’s vote, Hawaii joins a growing number of states that recognize that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Whenever freedom and equality are affirmed, our country becomes stronger.”

The president added that he was proud to say he was born a Hawaiian. “By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation. I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder.”