By Oskar Garcia, AP
HONOLULU–Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to sign a bill Wednesday legalizing gay marriage, expanding positioning the islands for more newlywed tourists.
Abercrombie was expected to sign the bill Wednesday morning at an invitation-only ceremony at the Hawaii Convention Center, near the tourist heart of Waikiki.
The measure will allow thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2. Another 14 states and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage, while a bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois.
“I look forward to signing this significant piece of legislation, which provides marriage equity and fully recognizes and protects religious freedoms,” Abercrombie said.
President Barack Obama praised the bill’s passage, saying the affirmation of freedom and equality makes the country stronger.
“I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii, and today’s vote makes me even prouder,” Obama said.
Senators passed the bill 19-4 on Tuesday with two lawmakers excused. Cheers erupted inside and outside the gallery when the vote was taken, with a smattering of boos. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who voted against the bill, banged her gavel and told members of the public to quiet down.
More than half the chamber’s lawmakers spoke in support of the bill, with many urging the public to come together to heal divisions within the community.