Hawaii Senate passes gay marriage bill; if signed into law same-sex nuptials could begin Dec. 2

HONOLULU - The Hawaii state Senate has passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, putting the islands a signature away from becoming a same-sex wedding destination.

Legislators passed the bill Tuesday during a special session, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it.

The measure will allow thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2.

An estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says the law will boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years.

Senators passed the bill 19-4 with two lawmakers excused. The chamber took up the bill a second time because of changes made in the House, where the bill was amended and eventually passed.

The bill is the culmination of more than two decades of debate in the state, where two women in 1990 famously applied for a marriage license, touching off a court battle and eventual national discussion on gay marriage. The case led to Congress passing the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, part of which was struck down earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision that legally married same-sex couples could qualify for federal benefits led Abercrombie to call the special session in Hawaii.

Same-sex marriage is already legal in 14 states and Washington, DC.

For more on the vote watch the video below (mobile users: http://bit.ly/1aEbE53):

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