The growing list of states in the U.S. is set to add another, as Hawaii became 16th state in America – and the sixth this year alone – to allow marriage equality. It’s news that advocates in the United Church of Christ can celebrate, that gives congregations in the Aloha State the right to express their faith and recognize the equality of LGBT unions.
The Hawaii House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday, Nov. 8, to legalize same-gender marriages. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has publicly stated he would sign the bill, SB1, which will allow all couples to marry beginning in December.
The Rev. Charles Buck, conference minister for the UCC Hawaii Conference, weighed in on what he believes the new law would mean for the denomination in his state, which has recognized civil unions since January 2012.
"Though Hawai`i legalized civil unions two years ago, marriage equality was the natural next step to protect the civil rights of all citizens, especially after the recent landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court," Buck said. "UCC churches and ministers hold differing views on marriage equality, but the legislation expected to be signed by the governor should also protect churches’ First Amendment rights to practice their beliefs."
The marriage equality movement in Hawaii picked up after the high court’s ruling, and Abercrombie asked the legislature in October to "to focus squarely on this important issue." Since the Supreme Court ruled on a pair of cases in late June, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii have enacted marriage equality laws. Just a week ago, Illinois became the 15th state to support marriage equality after lawmakers passed a bill after several years of attempts. Same-sex marriages will be recognized in Illinois on June 1, 2014.
Hawaii joins 15 other states, along with Washington, D.C., that permit same-sex marriages: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. New Mexico is likely the next state that will legalize same-sex marriages, as the state’s highest court heard arguments in October and will soon rule on the case.
The UCC has a long history of affirming and working for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. At its 2005 biennial General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – the denomination passed a resolution affirming equal marriage rights for all couples, regardless of gender.