Eileen McKee (C) hugs Carolyn Golujuch during celebrations
after same sex marriage was made legal in Hawaii.
Dozens of same-sex couples, led by a gay minister and his
longtime partner, tied the knot in Hawaii early on Monday
(local time) as a new law went into effect at midnight, making
the Aloha state the 15th to legalize gay marriage.
With Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie in attendance,
Jonipher Kwong and Chris Nelson became the first gay couple
to marry in Hawaii during a ceremony at the First Unitarian
Church of Honolulu, just minutes after same-sex weddings
"I've done many weddings for other couples but didn't realize
how profound it would be for me," said Kwong, a minister at
First Unitarian and vocal advocate of the new law who has
waited 15 years to marry his partner.
"At the end of the evening I was speechless to be part of
that historic moment, not just for us but those who will come
after," he told Reuters. "I also felt a little sad that some
of the people who came before were not able to complete
marriage and see it in their lifetime."
Hawaii's governor signed legislation last month extending
marriage rights to same-sex couples, capping 20 years of
legal and political rancor in a state regarded as a pioneer
in advancing the cause of gay matrimony.
Kwong and Nelson joined a rush of other same-sex couples who
were quick to tie the knot as the law went into effect. Their
ranks include between 30 and 40 same-sex couples who were
married at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu starting
just after midnight local time, according to a hotel
"It felt like we were actually first-class citizens," Kwong
said of his wedding. "We're both still riding cloud nine at
PATH TO GAY MARRIAGE
The path to gay marriage in Hawaii, long a popular wedding
and honeymoon destination, was long and bumpy. The state
Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that barring same-sex marriage
was discriminatory, in a landmark opinion that spurred the
gay rights movement nationwide but sparked a backlash that
until now kept matrimony in Hawaii restricted to
Hawaii's new law, passed during a special session of the
Democrat-controlled legislature, rolled back a 1994 statute
that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The latest reversal by Hawaii lawmakers comes at a time of
increasing momentum for gay marriage in the courts, at the
ballot box and in statehouses across the United States.
The trend has gained steam since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
in June that married same-sex couples were eligible for
federal benefits, striking down a key part of the 1996
federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Massachusetts led the way in legalizing gay marriage by
becoming the first state to do so in 2003. A year ago, only
six states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex
marriage, but the number has since more than doubled, due in
most cases to litigation over the issue.
In October, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his
legal opposition to gay marriage, making his state the 14th
to legalize same-sex weddings.
Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first to extend
marriage rights to same-sex couples by popular vote by
passing ballot initiatives last November. A new Illinois law
allowing same-sex marriages goes into effect in six months.