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Hawaii OKs Same-Sex Marriage; Ill. Pending

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 14, 2013 7:56 AM

Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize gay marriage on Wednesday, with Gov. Neil Abercrombie signing the historic bill after it was passed by the state Senate on Tuesday.

Abercrombie's signing comes 23 years after Hawaii's marriage equality struggle began in 1990, The Associated Press reports. The new law will go into effect December 2.

Illinois had been poised to become the 15th state to allow same-sex marriage, as state lawmakers approved a bill last week. But Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is not scheduled to sign the bill into law until November 20.

Hawaii's Long Road to Marriage Equality

The Aloha State's gay marriage movement had its first big victory 20 years ago, when the Hawaii Supreme Court announced that refusing to marry a same-sex couple violated the state's equal protection rights. The landmark case, Baehr v. Lewin, gave hope to supporters of gay marriage that striking down gay marriage bans was possible.

Even though this early case made gay marriage in the islands legally unclear, Hawaii's legal change prompted Congress to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. DOMA prevented gay married couples from being recognized by the federal government or any state which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

It is somehow fitting then that after DOMA was dealt a substantial blow in the U.S. Supreme Court, forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, that the state where it all started would allow gay marriage less than five months later.

There are those in Hawaii less than pleased with the ruling, the AP reports. At least one legislator is set on challenging the new law in court. Others have focused on the positive impacts to the state, with a University of Hawaii researcher estimating "$217 million" in tourism over the next three years.

Ill. Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

As the number of states allowing gay marriage reaches 15, there is more and more competition between states over gay marriage tourism and ceremony dollars. According to University of Massachusetts-Amherst economics professor Lee Badgett, Hawaii and other states are now "making a play" for same-sex couples' spending dollars, new spending which is "great for the economy."

Illinois may be a bit behind in that competition, but Gov. Quinn has said in a statement that he looks forward to signing the gay marriage bill on November 20 at 3:30 p.m. at the University of Illinois, reports the Windy City Times.

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