Tuesday | February 21, 2017
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Abercrombie gives gay marriage bill to lawmakers

HONOLULU — Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday presented state lawmakers with a draft of legislation that would legalize gay marriage in Hawaii.

The governor stopped short of saying he would call a special session to pass the bill but said it was a clear possibility.

He spoke at an afternoon rally outside the state Capitol and to reporters afterward. The rally, organized by the Honolulu chapter of MoveOn.org, was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

If lawmakers pass a bill, Hawaii would join 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have legalized gay marriage. Hawaii is already among a handful of states that allow same-sex civil unions, which gay marriage advocates say stop short of providing the full benefits of marriage.

Proponents of gay marriage in the state renewed their efforts after seeing two U.S. Supreme Court rulings come down in line with their views. One ruling granted federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal.

Abercrombie is a central player on the issue in Hawaii because he has the power to call lawmakers into special session. He has said he thinks a special session is likely, though he has not yet called for one.

A spokeswoman for the governor said that his office is focusing on legislation, with discussions with lawmakers underway.

Hawaii’s Legislature is made up mostly of Democrats, but House and Senate leaders were unable to wrangle two-thirds support needed to call a special session on the issue.

Church leaders on both sides of the issue have been outspoken recently, wanting state laws to coincide with their beliefs.

The rally comes as Americans around the country marked an iconic day in the history of the civil rights movement, King’s speech and the March on Washington.

Speaking from the same steps where King spoke 50 years ago, President Barack Obama challenged new generations to take up the cause of racial equality.

Around the country, people rang bells at 3 p.m. local time to mark King’s famous line: “Let freedom ring.”

Abercrombie led bell-ringing ceremonies at a Methodist church in Honolulu before the rally at the state Capitol.