Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced Monday he would call a special session of the state Legislature beginning Oct. 28 to consider marriage-equality legislation.
Speaking to reporters, the Democratic governor of the Aloha State said it was time to resolve the issue once and for all and expressed optimism that lawmakers would extend the right to marry to same-sex couples.
"This is now the 20th year of discussion that has taken place on the issue and associated issues with it," Abercrombie said. "I feel very, very strongly that the votes are there to pass this because it is time for marriage equity to take place."
Abercrombie said the special session would likely last four to five days and expressed optimism that the bill, which includes a religious exemption touted by Abercrombie, would pass both houses of the Legislature. Hawaii Attorney General David Louie said, if approved, the bill as proposed would allow for same-sex nuptials to begin as soon as Nov. 18.
According to Abercrombie, the October date was chosen before the start of the new session next year due to the "serious, deep and wide ranging consequences, particularly for tax law, that have to be in effect by Dec. 31 if they're to be taken full advantage of."
"It is my conclusion, and I think the conclusion of everyone I've been consulting with, that virtually everything that can be said has been said," Abercrombie continued. "Virtually every angle, virtually every view, every variation on a view with regard to the issue of marriage and equitable treatment for those engaged in marriage has been aired, has been analyzed, has been discussed."
In January, same-sex marriage legislation was introduced in the state's House and Senate, but failed to overcome a procedural obstacle and was never scheduled for hearings.
A January poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research and commissioned by Equality Hawaii Foundation found 55 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, while only 37 percent are opposed. Last month, all four members of Hawaii's congressional delegation announced their support for passage of marriage-equality legislation.
Hawaii is one of several states that advocates have set their sights on as likely to be the next to recognize same-sex couples' right to marry. The state already holds a historic place in the history of the marriage-equality movement. Indeed, it was the consideration of same-sex marriage by the Hawaii Supreme Court that sparked the political backlash that led to the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
[Photo: Neil Abercrombie. Credit: Office of the Governor.]