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Hawaii governor calls special session on marriage equality

HONOLULU -- Hawaii lawmakers have been called into special session to discuss legalizing same-gender marriage.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who supports marriage equality, called the special session to open on Oct. 28. He said Monday that it was time for the Rainbow State to provide equality to all its citizens who wish to marry.

Hawaii offers civil unions, which fall short of provide the full benefits of marriage equality. And since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June involving the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, states that provide civil unions are mulling over whether they should take the next step and offer marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Furthermore, the U.S. government has reacted to the rulings by granting federal benefits to same-gender couples who are married in states that have legalized marriage equality. Many legal experts expect many lawsuits to arise from married gay and lesbian couples who are denied benefits in states that have banned marriage equality.

Hawaii has debated marriage equality since 1991, and nearly became the first state to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples. But voters passed Constitutional Amendment 2 in 1998 to limit marriage to opposite-gender couples. Since then, efforts to reverse the law have failed.

Since 1998, though, Hawaii voters have swung their support for marriage equality. Currently polling reflects a majority in the state now support marriage rights. Most of the opposition is coming from the Roman Catholic Church and Religious Right pastors.

The state's tourism industry is pushing for marriage equality so that Hawaii can become a wedding destination for the LGBT community.